The Seoul Metropolitan Government is choicing Seoul’s ten-policies and the Youth Allownace is on the selections.
/Photograph by Lee Ji-won
As a response to the rising youth unemployment rate, Seoul Metropolitan Government first introduced the Youth Allowance in 2016. It aimed to support young people financially and encourage their job-seeking activities by providing monthly financial aid for six-months. However, frequent changes in the plan by the Ministry of Health and Welfare have led to the enacting of Youth Allowance to be postponed. After much consultation between the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Youth Allowance started to be operated again in 2017. Now the scale of the Youth Allowance has been widened and become one of the most important youth support policies. Nevertheless, the controversy over the policy remains.
The Youth Allowance was revised in youngsters’ participation
The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s plan for the Youth Allowance refers to supporting five hundred thousand won in the range of six months for the qualified unemployed youngsters. The aim of this plan is to help those youngsters in a way that helps them advance into the society and find their job. Currently, in April, 2017, under the negotiation with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Seoul Metropolitan Government clearly limited the recipients of the benefits to below those in 150 percent income and restricted its use to the places where job-seeking activities are related. Furthermore, they have strengthened the participation of beneficiaries to join the “Program of Career Exploration and Strengthening of Ability.” Starting from July, the policy was re-executed.
Discourse of the Youth Allowance as the Social Welfare Populism
Since the policy targets only at the young generation, there are criticisms as to the “Social Welfare Populism Discourse.” It refers to a form of political movement that speaks only for the majority’s voice and desire. In this context, the controversy puts emphasis on the claim that it is an act of being conscious of the young voters and gaining their public opinion. Thus, such populism makes the politicians look too lenient to the public, which also means wasting the tax-payers’ money. On this matter, Cho Sung-hae, the professor of the Department of Law said, “I agree on the statement that the Youth Allowance can be seen as a social welfare populism. What it really matters for the youngsters is providing their jobs, not just giving them financial aids. I also have doubts on whether it can constantly help the young generation.”
Additionally, the local governments are pushing ahead the policy, not considering the differences of financial abilities among different regional groups.
Unfair standard criteria of selection in the Youth Allowance
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s standard of selection, the income of beneficiaries must be under the 150 percent of median income. After this quantitative assessment is estimated, the qualitative assessment is evaluated. In the following evaluation, an employment activity plan must be handed in, such as stating down the goal of the activity, job-seeking program and monthly report of the job plan.
However, despite such specific conditions of application, there are limits on making a fair assessment. For example, as it is also discussed in the Korea Student Aid Foundation, in the case of owner-operator and private businesses, there are circumstances when these people do not declare their income properly. Thus, measurement on one’s income can be recorded lower than the real income. Ahn Jung-min (Senior, Department of Law) mentioned, “I am really frustrated on how the government is estimating people’s income. I think the government should put an effort to be transparent when it comes to measuring their income so that youngsters deserve what they are entitled to.”
Lack of efforts in promoting youngsters to participate in job-seeking activity
The goal of the Youth Allowance, which is to encourage young people to actively work on their job-seeking activities, has raised doubts. Though the Youth Allowance stresses the program of “Career Exploration and Strengthening of Ability” for the volition of job hunting and the assessment of activity plans, the actual participation rate of the program is questioned. The only requirement of the participants in the relationship of job-seeking activity that the Seoul Metropolitan Government conducts is to submit monthly results of activity reports, and the participation of such program is autonomously entrusted to the youngsters. However, the problem is that there are no other disadvantages when one does not participate in any of those programs.
On the other hand, unlike the Youth Allowance, the “Successful Employment Package” conducted by the Ministry of Employment and Labor has an integrated employment assistance system in which young people acquire financial aid only after they complete an activity that is related to job-seeking. Although the Seoul Metropolitan Government suggests that the Youth Allowance is expected to activate job hunting activity by the unemployed youngsters, the direct relevance of employment activity is hard to define compared to other policies that support the youth.
Possible solutions to regain the essence meaning of the Youth Allowance
To solve the issues of the Youth Allowance, the government needs to show justification and use the policy in the right way. Thus, reasonable evidence to justify such policy would be needed. Also, more successful cases among the job seekers and youngsters will lead to great examples of utilizing the Youth Allowance and increase the young generation employment rate. For the issue of standard criteria when selecting the candidates of the Youth Allowance, the government must make an effort to conduct a fair measurement of income level. By extension, there are also needs to strengthen the system and program connected to the actual job-seeking activity to achieve the initial purpose of the Youth Allowance. Youth support should be not limited to only providing living expenses to the youth, but also encourage the youngsters to actively search for their jobs. Professor Cho Sung-hae suggested, “The most important thing is to constantly provide the youngsters with a place to work. On that point, I think a vocational training is a great way to improve people’s working ability, and at the same time, acquiring financial ability.”
In fact, the Youth Allowance is prevailing nationwide and growing at a rapid pace. In addition, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has expanded the recipients of the Youth Allowance to seven thousand young people. However, doubts on the justification and fairness are still controversial and re-consideration of such policy is still brought up.
Lee Ji-won email@example.com
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