Thousands of Mom-and-Pop Stores Closed by Pandemic

Thousands of Mom-and-Pop Stores Closed by Pandemic

The number of self-employed business owners fell to an all-time low in September as small restaurants, cafés and other shops could no longer weather the coronavirus pandemic.

The proportion of owners who work alone without any staff also reached an all-time high as they had to lay off workers.

According to Statistics Korea on Thursday, the number of self-employed business owners stood at 6.57 million in September, down 63,000 from a year ago. Self-employed business owners accounted for just 23.7 percent of all workers in September, down from 23.8 percent in March.

Small business owners apply for relief funds at a district office in Daejeon on Wednesday.

“Staff wages, ingredients prices and rent keep rising, while the number of customers declined due to lockdown, which has led to a drop in the number of self-employed people,” said Kim Kwang-suk at the Institute for Korean Economy and Industry. “We could see a rise in the number of new self-employed business owners as we shift to a phased return to normal, but the industry will remain stagnant due to its vulnerability to inflation, which will lead to an increase in the number operating without staff.”

A whopping 64.6 percent of the self-employed had no staff other than members of their family, up 22,000 compared to a year ago and the highest since September 1982.

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