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South Korea’s unemployment rate hits 11-year high | Coronavirus pandemic News

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The number of people in work slumped at the fastest rate in nearly 21 years as shops, restaurants were slammed by COVID.

South Korea’s unemployment rate surged to an 11-year high in December, while the number of people in work plunged at the fastest rate in more than 20 years, as stringent COVID-19 curbs at home intensified pressure on businesses.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate – which takes into account holidays, calendar variations and the weather among other factors – jumped to 4.6 percent in the final month of 2020, up from 4.1 percent in November and the worst since January 2010.

For 2020 as a whole, it stood at 4 percent, the highest since 2001, data from Statistics Korea showed on Wednesday.

The data also showed the number of employed was 26.5 million in December, 628,000 fewer than a year earlier, marking the 10th straight monthly drop and the worst downturn since February 1999.

South Korea’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate [Bloomberg]

“Damages on retail, accommodation and restaurant businesses were the biggest strain for December figures,” Statistics Korea official told Reuters news agency.

Breakdowns showed workers at retailers, accommodation facilities and restaurants were the hardest hit last month, as the numbers of new jobs fell 511,000 from a year earlier.

Those at manufacturers also took a big hit with the number of new jobs falling 110,000 year-on-year.

Year-on-year percentage change in South Korean manufacturing jobs [Bloomberg]

South Korea raised its social distancing measures for the metropolitan Seoul area enforcing a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and shutting most businesses including restaurants by 9 pm, on December 8.

Curtailed hours for most shops and the shutdown of karaoke parlours and other businesses where the spread of disease is more likely to have hurt workers in the service sector, especially during the holiday season.

The daily virus cases surged to a record level in late December, leading to more new restrictions, but that has slowed in recent days, thanks to the nation’s aggressive tracing and testing system.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week pledged to expand support for those vulnerable to job insecurity, including temporary workers, daily labourers and youth.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy is set to shrink in 2020, the first contraction in 22 years, even as the government rolled out about 310 trillion won ($283.28bn) worth of stimulus last year. Preliminary 2020 gross domestic product (GDP) data will be released later this month by the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The worst job losses since the late 1990s’ Asian financial crisis could spur more calls for the BOK to put increased emphasis on employment in setting monetary policy. The BOK is expected to hold rates at a record low when it meets on Friday.

The deteriorating labour market also adds pressure on the government and lawmakers to come up with more ways to shore up the economy.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki, in a statement, said difficulties in the labour market are likely to persist through February and pledged to do more to combat it.

Moon’s administration already plans to give 4.6 trillion won ($4.2bn) in cash handouts to millions of South Koreans before next month’s Lunar New Year holiday and front-load fiscal spending in the first half of the year.



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Cyclone Eloise affected 250,000 people in Mozambique, says UN | Weather News

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Eloise brought winds of up to 150km/h followed by torrential rain over port city of Beira and adjacent Buzi district.

A tropical cyclone that struck central Mozambique last week has affected 250,000 people, a sharp increase over initial estimates, according to a UN official.

Myrta Kaulard, the UN’s resident coordinator in Mozambique, added on Tuesday that 18,000 people were internally displaced after Cyclone Eloise made landfall in the early hours of Saturday.

“Yesterday, we were mentioning 170,000 people affected. Today, the official figures have climbed to 250,000,” Kaulard said in a video call with reporters at the UN, adding that 76 health centres and hundreds of classrooms were damaged.

“We also see widespread floods that are still there and a lot of people trying still to get out of the flooded areas,” she said.

Eloise brought winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour (90 miles per hour) followed by torrential rain over the port city of Beira, the capital of Mozambique’s Sofala province, and the adjacent Buzi district.

It weakened into a tropical storm as it moved inland to Zimbabwe, South Africa, eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland and Botswana.

The death toll across the region rose to 14 on Tuesday after South Africa reported one more death.

In Mozambique, the cyclone hit an area already devastated by two successive super-storms in March and April 2019.

The first, Cyclone Idai, left more than 1,000 dead and caused damage estimated at about $2bn.

People queue for food at the accommodation centre in Tica after their villages were flooded due to the passage of Cyclone Eloise [Andre Catueira/EPA]

An international aid group warned on Tuesday that crowded centres for storm survivors created ideal conditions for the coronavirus to spread.

In the port city of Beira alone, 8,700 people are living in 16 temporary shelters after their homes were destroyed by the cyclone.

“Each tent I saw had at least 10 people packed into it and families are lacking access to safe water and essential items like soap and face masks,” said Marcia Penicela, project manager at ActionAid Mozambique following a visit to sites.

Espinola Caribe, head of the World Food Programme’s Beira sub-office, also said COVID-19 was a concern and people had to be moved out of danger.

“This was not a planned evacuation … this was running for your life,” he said.

Widespread flooding in the Buzi area of Mozambique after the landfall of Cyclone Eloise [Bruno Pedro/UNICEF/AFP]



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