No will to work

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Ever since we were children, we were told to study well in school and find a good-paying job when we’re older so that we can lead a decent life. With a job, we’re supposed to be able to do everything – pay the bills, fulfill our desires, lead a successful career, and occasionally go on vacations – but it seems that fewer and fewer people are willing to work nowadays.

The Mongolian population has exceeded 3.2 million and 25,000 of them are registered as unemployed, according to the latest labor market data published earlier this year. There are over 2.1 million people old enough to work, or between the ages of 15 and 60, and approximately 1.3 million of them are healthy and capable of being economically active. Despite this, eight percent of the economically active population remains unemployed, according to the National Statistics Office.

In terms of employment, almost half of the employed have stable income and pay all social insurances, whereas 26.8 percent are engaged in agriculture, 19.6 percent are self-employed and another 19.6 percent are household producers. However, labor analysts strongly denied their contribution to the society and economy.

They explained that the incomes of household producers are often seasonal and herders have unstable income. Due to this, they are unable to increase their household income, create savings or improve their livelihood.

The latest labor force survey reported a 1.9 percent decline in registered unemployment from 2017 to 2018. However, the number of unemployed reached 25,000 by the end of December last year, which is 782 more than in November. It also showed that the majority of the unemployed, specifically 13,200 out of 25,000 registered job seekers, are women.

While there are people eager to find a job, there are those who get tired of looking for a job and become too comfortable staying at home as they get sheltered by their parents or cohabiters.

The 1.9 percent decline in registered unemployment is partially connected to this too. This decline doesn’t necessarily mean more people found jobs. It’s partially connected to the growing number of job seekers who have become inactive. Over the last 12 months, 68,400 people were unregistered from labor agencies due to lack of effort to find employment.

“To get a realistic figure for unemployment, we must count the number of people who scrape a living by working as an independent taxi driver, cleaning people’s homes, doing small trades, and other means, as well as those living on the pensions and benefits of the elderly,” said N.Narangerel, labor economist and researcher who works at the Labor and Social Protection College.

She added that this form of survival dependent on one or more family members’ income can be called “hidden unemployment”.

“I’ve been studying the labor market for the last three years with other specialists. According to my calculation, the employment rate in Mongolia stands at 10 to 15 percent. A survey conducted among more than 100 families in Ulaanbaatar indicated that one in four families have a member at the appropriate age to work but doesn’t have a job. These unemployed people are usually those who can’t stay in a workplace for more than six months, aren’t registered at a labor agency, or don’t have adequate skills. There are also young people who live abroad and receive allowances from their family on a monthly basis.”

“If we say that there are around 210,000 families in Ulaanbaatar, it could be said that there are over 50,000 unemployed individuals in addition to the registered unemployed. It’s still hard to claim this as an official number but it brings us closer to providing a more accurate unemployment rate. This is what we call hidden unemployment,” N.Narangerel said.

One of the key reasons people lose their motivation to work is low salary. The average monthly salary in Mongolia is slightly over a million MNT and the minimum monthly wage stands at 320,000 MNT.

Regarding wages and their impact on people’s eagerness to work, self-employed graphic designer T.Todbileg said, “It’s been a decade since I graduated. During this time, I found only one job with the help of a labor center. I quit after two months because the pay was too low. Now, I make 50,000 MNT to 100,000 MNT a day. I work with my wife and the income varies depending on the season and demand. Nevertheless, this is better for us because apart from the rent for our office, we don’t have to pay tax or other fees.”

Since T.Todbileg doesn’t pay taxes or social insurance, he doesn’t contribute to the public sector. Since he isn’t registered under a labor agency, he isn’t accounted as an unemployed person. However, both him and his wife would be considered “unemployed”.

Department Head at the Center for Employment Service G.Ganzorig was asked about people’s interest to work, reasons people don’t get hired, and the socially inactive population. He noted, “At present, we have a demand for 10,000 jobs and applications of 6,500 job seekers. It’s hard to say how many people are unwilling to find a job at national level.”

“In the last two years, the number of available jobs has been higher than the number of people seeking jobs. This demonstrates that people are not interested to work,” G.Ganzorig underlined. “There are many mothers and fathers of undergraduates who come to us with their child’s resume and seek jobs on their behalf. Overall, there are countless people who aren’t willing to work or are only interested in landing high-paying managerial-level jobs.”

Another concern is the growing population of highly educated people who don’t have jobs. By the end of 2018, 48.4 percent of registered job seekers had graduated from high school, 29.7 percent had diploma or undergraduate degree, 6.5 percent had technical and vocational training, and 1.1 percent had a master’s or higher degree.

It’s appalling to see so many young and able people living indolently. There can be thousands of reasons for hating the job, but there are benefits to having a job. Jobs not only help us pay the bills but also give people a purpose in life, polish their skills, and builds confidence and self-esteem in addition to other perks. Nowadays, everybody seems to want to become their own boss and to be the boss of others than working for others. But we must remember that everything takes time and that we can learn many things working under another and that this can become a stepping stone for rising to the top.

For a fact, people are choosing to become less economically active and this is an issue that everyone needs to pay attention to.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan