Published : 2013-12-26 19:45
Updated : 2013-12-26 19:45
As in any other sector, policies on education and employment should be consistent ― especially if they are seen to have taken the right direction. A change of government in itself cannot and should not be a reason for dropping policies that have brought positive effects.
From this viewpoint, it is regrettable and undesirable that the number of high school graduates landing jobs at public institutions and private companies has been decreasing under the incumbent government of President Park Geun-hye.
Her predecessor Lee Myung-bak pushed for measures to increase the employment of high school graduates in an effort to reduce the growing inefficiency and cost caused by the overeducated workforce that has resulted in a serious job mismatch. His administration strengthened support for traditional vocational schools and established a network of meister schools designed to prepare youths to work in high-skilled manufacturing jobs and other fields. Many parents sent their children to these schools, encouraged by Lee’s promise that college diplomas would no longer be a prerequisite for finding satisfactory work.
In response to his initiative, public organizations and private corporations competitively announced plans to recruit more high school graduates. More than 92 percent of the first graduates from meister schools set up in 2010 have been employed, while the employment rate for university graduates has remained at about 50 percent in recent years.
Since the launch of the Park administration in February, however, high school graduates have been given fewer job opportunities as the focus of its policy is put on creating more jobs by introducing a more flexible system of working hours.
Local banks and brokerage firms, which hired 715 and 162 high school graduates, respectively, last year, reduced their employment to 491 and 88 this year. Public institutions plan to cut the recruitment of high school graduates from 2,512 this year to 1,933 next year. This move is in sharp contrast to the promise made by the Lee government last year to gradually increase the proportion of high school graduates among new employees at public organizations to 40 percent by 2016. Large businesses increased the employment of high school graduates at a steep pace since 2011, but now suggest reducing it next year.
Personnel officials at public institutions and private companies say they cannot but cut the quota for high school graduates to create more flexible time jobs and give permanent positions to more irregular workers in line with current government policies. But youths who have spent years preparing themselves for a job should not be victimized by changes in employment policies made by different administrations. Students at meister and vocational schools and their parents should not be left out, feeling betrayed by the state and major entities in both public and private sectors.
President Park has tried to distance herself from her unpopular predecessor, discarding or paying little heed to policies pushed by his administration. But his endeavor to increase the employment of high school graduates deserves to be continued. The perception that high school graduates with skills and expertise can receive due treatment should be further promoted in Korean society, which is troubled with a glut of overeducated jobless youths.
With about 8 in every 10 high school graduates entering university in the country, more than half of the 20-somethings with a college diploma remain unemployed or have given up looking for jobs, while many small and medium-sized companies suffer from a chronic shortage of manpower. Under these circumstances, efforts should continue to be strengthened to encourage more high school students to get jobs first and, if necessary, seek higher education in parallel with their work. Various incentives need to be given to companies to promote the dual system of work and study for their employees.