How college students are coping with the impact of inflation

직업 2023-12-07 07:25:53 9

Runaway inflation is putting pressure on the economically vulnerable across various walks of life, and college students are among those finding new ways to cope with the cost of living.

In South Korea, it is not unusual for 20-something children to live with their parents until marriage, often receiving full or partial financial support from them.

A survey of 1,319 people in their 20s, conducted by part-time job portal Alba Heaven in August, found that 88.1 percent are financially reliant on their parents. Among them, nearly 97 percent of college students were financially dependent, compared to 83 percent of job seekers. On average, they receive a monthly allowance of around 500,000 won ($370). The survey didn’t ask whether they lived with their parents.

“My parents have been covering my college tuition fees and living expenses,” said Park Ji-eun, who is in her early 20s. “I aspire to be independent from my parents’ financial care someday, but so far, thanks to them, I am not feeling the pinch.”

On the flip side, students who do not receive sufficient financial support from their parents often have to manage on shoestring budget. They face particular challenges with the increasing costs of food and housing.

Ditching 'dosirak'

Twenty-two-year-old college student Choi Young-min said the school cafeterias are the best places to eat amid the rising costs of dining out.

"During weekdays, I prefer going to cafeterias, where I can eat a meal for 3,000-5,000 won," she explained. "I think the food in the school cafeteria tastes better and definitely feels healthier than 'dosirak' (sold in convenience stores)."

Amid the high inflation, the government-subsidized meal project, dubbed the “1,000-won breakfast,” drew enthusiastic responses.

As of May 2023, the program has been implemented at 145 of Korea's 336 universities, covering up to 2.34 million students. Under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' budget scheme, each student is funded 1,000 won by the ministry, and universities cover the remaining cost of the meal, typically around 2,000 won per student.

A Hanyang University student surnamed Park also expressed interest in the low-cost meal program.

“It would benefit me to a great extent both academically and financially since my school operates the program during the school exam period,” he said.

Amid mounting financial pressure, some students refrain from eating out and prefer to cook at home instead.

Lee Eun-ji, a 20-something graduate student in Seoul, has started cooking frequently at home, even though the cost of groceries has also risen.

“I find cooking helpful not only for saving money but also for staying healthy and diligent,” Lee said. “Eating out costs an arm and a leg, and for me, cooking is the most cost-effective."

The Korea National Council of Consumer Organizations, which promotes the rights of consumers, stressed the need to stabilize food costs as a top priority amid the high inflation, since food is a necessity that fulfills basic needs and affects the public's quality of life.

An official from the consumer advocacy group stated, "Considering the consistent rise in food prices year after year, it is crucial to implement price stabilization measures with the voluntary cooperation of food corporations."




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