The number of employees at Korean conglomerates exceeded 3 million for the first time last year, reaching 11 percent of the overall employment at local companies, while the proportion of employees at small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) fell to its lowest level. The number of workers at large companies, those hiring more than 300 people, rose 3 percent, or 89,000, to a record 3.08 million in 2023 from a year earlier, according to data from Statistics Korea on Monday and companies’ regulatory filings.
It is the first time that the number of conglomerate employees has exceeded 3 million since the government began to compile related data in 2004. Employment at conglomerates has continued to rise for the past six years. In particular, they focused on expanding contact-free businesses, which continued to grow during the past three years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the data showed.
As of June last year, Samsung Electronics ranked first with 124,070 employees, jumping 18 percent from the same month of 2019 before the pandemic began to affect overall industries in 2020. Hyundai Motor came in second, with the number of its employees up 3.2 percent to 71,520 in June last year compared to the same month of 2019. Other conglomerates — Kia, LG Electronics and SK hynix — had hired more than 30,000 as of June.
In contrast, the pandemic dealt a blow to SMEs, which largely rely on face-to-face services and direct deals with consumers. The number of employees at SMEs slightly rose 0.9 percent, or 238,000, to 25.33 million last year from a year ago. The proportion of employment at SMEs out of overall business employment fell to the lowest level of 89.1 percent last year. The corresponding proportion of SMEs stood at 90.4 percent in June 2019.
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