GDP growth is projected to reach 2.7% in 2022 and to slow to just under 2% in 2023 and 2024. In response to weak disposable income growth and a sluggish housing market, private consumption and investment are set to lose momentum. Declining semiconductors sales will weigh on exports in the short term. Unemployment is set to increase from the current low rate, and inflation will remain elevated for some time.
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Sound health management and supportive policies helped Korea emerge swiftly from the pandemic. The recovery is set to continue as pandemic-era restrictions on contact-intensive services are shelved, despite the Russia-Ukraine war raising inflation and highlighting the need to increase supply chain resilience. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels can boost resilience, but is also necessary to reach ambitious climate targets. Fiscal policy support will need to be scaled back and should focus on supporting people and business dynamism rather than firm survival. The productivity gap between small and large, highly productive companies is reflected in labour market dualities of income, job quality and social protection. Gaps in the social safety net largely follow the same fault lines, and a large share of elderly are left with very low retirement income. These inequalities spur fierce competition among young men and women to enter prestigious universities and good jobs and slows down youth’s labour market entry and family formation against a backdrop of a very low fertility rate.
The pandemic highlighted vulnerabilities of the dual labour market and a weak social safety net. A welfare reform needs to be coupled with policies aimed at increasing employment and job quality, especially for women and older workers, who are often in non-regular jobs and the most affected by the crisis. A more flexible labour market would allow workers to move more easily from crisis-hit sectors to growing industries.
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2021 Structural Reform Priorities