By Cho Jin-seo
Korea has the most hard-working but least efficient workforce among the 30 OECD nations, but its productivity is improving fast, government research showed Wednesday.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said that Koreans work the longest hours in the OECD nations but their productivity is less than half of American workers. Korea also lags behind other OECD countries in other national competitiveness qualitative measures such as education and corruption.
The government will focus more on the “soft” aspect of the economy, the ministry said.
“Korea is ranked around 10th among 30 OECD nations in terms of the size of economy and trade. It is fast transforming into an innovative economy, but we still have so much to improve in qualitative aspects,” a ministry official said Wednesday.
“It is clear that we are shifting to a quality-oriented growth. What matters now is how fast we can change.”
Per-capita GDP was 25th largest on nominal terms, and 23rd considering the different price level of each country. But GDP growth rate and growth potential were both the third highest, and growth in labor productivity was the second highest among the 30 nations analyzed.
There were extreme variances in some parts of the scores released Wednesday. For example, the portion of young people going to college was the highest in the OECD, but the portion of Ph.D. holders in science and engineering was the lowest.
One field in which Korea excelled was recycling of garbage — first in the OECD. The Korean government is not alone in seeking supplements to the traditional barometer of gross domestic product (GDP) in measuring the quality and the competence of economy.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested that countries should factor happiness into statistics for growth. Joseph Stiglitz, an American economist, has long attacked the usefulness of GDP in measuring wealth and quality and efficiency of the economy, as seen in the relatively high health care spending by U.S. citizens and the poor outcome they get.
Critics of the GDP point out that the measure was first adopted for military use during the Cold War, as economic output reflected a country’s capability to support wars.
The problem is how to make a consolidated score system that spans the quantitative and qualitative factors. The finance ministry official who briefed reporters on Wednesday acknowledged this problem.
한국인 일 열심히 하나 비능률적
한국인은 30개 OECD국가 중 가장 열심히 일하지만 효율성이 최저로 나타났으나 최근 생산성이 빠르게 증가하고 있다고 정부의 한 조사에 나타났다.
기획재정부는 OECD 국가 중 최장시간 일을 하지만 생산성은 미국 근로자의 반도 안된다고 밝혔다. 한국은 교육과 부패 등 그 밖의 질적인 경쟁력에서 여타 OECD 국가에 뒤떨어진다.
정부는 경제의 ‘부드러운’면에 더 초점을 둘 것이라고 재정부는 말했다.
당국자는 “한국은 경제 및 무역 규모에서 OECD 30개국 중 10위 정도 랭크돼 있다.”며 “빠르게 혁신경제로 이동하고 있으나 질적인 면에서 개선해야 할 점이 아직 많다”고 말했다.