Asia Minute: Grim Job Prospects for Young University Graduates in South Korea

Oct 19, 2016

A quiet moment at Ehwa Womans University Seoul Seouth Korea.
Credit Rene Adamos / Flickr

The State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations expects overall employment in Hawai‘i will grow by nearly 6% over the next 8 years. The biggest gains are expected in construction, education and health services.  In South Korea, the employment picture tells a different story—especially for young college graduates. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

One-third of all unemployed South Koreans are college graduates.  That discouraging word came from the government this week…as it monitors a job market that continues to be troublesome for recent college graduates.  The national unemployment rate in South Korea is a little more than 3.5%…while the youth unemployment rate is nearly triple that figure.

Korean culture places a high value on education…including university education.  The Organization for Economic Development says 69% of 25 to 34 year olds in South Korea have a college degree.  That’s the highest rate of any OECD country.  The Chosun Ilbo reports part of the jobs issue is related to capacity.

Twenty years ago, South Korea’s government eased some regulations—which led to the creation of a number of new colleges.  Twenty six years ago, a third of South Korea’s high school graduates went on to university.  By 2014, 71% of high school graduates went on to higher education.

While the supply of university graduates has skyrocketed, corporate demand has gone the other way.  The business news website Quartz dot com reports a survey showing nearly half of South Korea’s biggest companies plan on reducing their hiring this year.