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HIV/AIDS drains labor force by W240 billion

By Park Eun-myo, (kep21@koreaherald.co.kr) The Korea Herald, 19 October 2002

The spread of HIV and AIDS is biting an increasing chunk out of the labour force each year, according to a study published by researchers at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs yesterday.

The estimated labor loss, both definite and potential, caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) was 241.3 billion won (about $193 million) last year. The figure jumped from 193.5 billion won in 2000, and is five times 1994’s 45.5 billion won.

This year, as of June, the approximate loss stands at 128 million won.

The loss is not disturbing yet, said Jung Young-ho, the first author of the study. But it’s definitely on the rise.

The estimate is based on a calculation of the amount of workers who would have contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during their lifetime, if they had not acquired HIV or contracted AIDS, Jung said.

Those who have HIV tend to lose their jobs, whether of their own accord or not, and we took that into account, Jung said.

The study also considered indirect losses, including medical spending, social stigma and despair that might prevent individuals from being fully productive, and the effect on other family members if they are the primary breadwinner of their families.

The labor demographic hardest hit is the 20-30 age group, as most people who contract HIV or AIDS are in their 20s or 30s. These age groups are also considered the most productive.

Between 1994 and 1998, the loss in labor caused by HIV and AIDS was .01 percent of the GDP. The loss increased steadily, reaching .04 percent of the national income in 2001.

Researchers said that the total HIV and AIDS-related labor loss between 1994 and June this year is one trillion won.

Jung added that the loss is probably much higher if people who have not declared their illness are taken into account.

AIDS first appeared in Korea in 1985. The number of people who are infected with HIV as of the third quarter this year is estimated to be 1,888.

UNAIDS, the United Nations HIV/AIDS program, suspects the number of HIV-infected people in Korea to be between 3,000 and 4,000.