At first glance, the World Talent Report 2015 released by the Institute for Management Development is encouraging, as it shows that Korea’s overall ability to develop, attract and retain talent has improved. Korea placed 31st among the 61 countries surveyed this year, up nine notches from 2014.
Yet the elevation in the overall ranking offers little comfort, as the report sheds light on some of the serious problems Korea faces. One such problem is the worsening brain drain, which hurts Korea’s global competitiveness.
This year, Korea’s “brain drain index” was 3.98 on the scale of 1 to 10, ranking 44th. Last year, it earned 4.63 to rank 37th. What the drop in the reading means is that the tendency for talented Koreans to leave the country has become much stronger.
Some explanation for Korea’s deteriorating brain drain problem was offered by a separate survey conducted by the Institute for International Trade.
The 2014 survey found that more than 70 percent of local candidates for master’s and doctorate degrees were willing to look for employment abroad, with 90 percent of them saying they would surely take a job abroad if it came their way.
The main motivations were a desire to acquire advanced knowledge, the allure of better pay, job insecurity in Korea and Korea’s poor research and development environment.
Another problem highlighted by the report, which is based on a poll of corporate executives in each country surveyed, is low worker motivation in Korea. Korea placed 54th in terms of employee motivation, remaining near the bottom along with Italy, Russia, Slovenia and Argentina.
A recent survey by Statistics Korea helps us understand why Korean workers are demotivated at work. The survey has found that more than 60 percent of Korean workers feel insecure about their jobs. It is difficult to expect workers who are worried about losing their jobs to show enthusiasm toward their work.
Furthermore, discontent over wages is found to be widespread, with only slightly more than 10 percent of the respondents expressing satisfaction with their income. It is only natural that workers dissatisfied with their wages get less enthusiastic about their jobs.
The IMD’s latest report highlights the need for Korea to value both talented people and ordinary workers. To stem the continued outflow of human capital, Korea needs to put in place a system that fosters talented people.
To enhance worker motivation, it is necessary to curb the growth of irregular jobs and narrow the ever expanding wage gap between big and small businesses.