Change is needed in fundamental way of thinking
Employment is becoming an increasingly complicated social and economic issue in industrial countries, encompassing demographics, education and technological development.
The National Employment Strategy for 2020, which passed a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, reaffirms the truth that the government canâ€™t offer a solution to this structural problem by mere compilation of miscellaneous measures.
It calls for, among other things, introducing a ``wage peakâ€ system, in which aged workers reduce both their work hours and wages by half and give the other half to younger, jobless workers. The biggest problem with this job-sharing idea is the quality of employment will also go down to half, which will not be acceptable for the young and highly-educated.
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There is too serious a mismatch between the supply and demand of high-end labor. But it is also the establishment, most notably the government through its education policy, which has inculcated the younger generations that only college diplomas, especially those in humanities departments, can ensure success in life.
How should one compare this unproductive educational zeal with examples of some, far more industrialized countries like Germany, where society and parents help middle-school students to decide their future career between skilled workers and college education?
Korean employers also complain about the steep wage hikes recently as well as overall wage levels which they say are relatively higher than competing countries. Unlike workers in advanced countries whose social safety net is very tight, however, wages are all there is for the Korean workers to survive.
After all, it is not the government but the businesses which can and will jack up the employment rate. So at stake is how the government encourages â€• or forces if necessary â€• the firms to increase the low elasticity of employment â€• which indicates the number of jobs increased 1-percent growth in gross domestic product â€• to industrial countriesâ€™ level.
Among the easiest ways would be to pass bills for bolder hiring tax credit, and obligate businesses to keep an ``employment quotaâ€ for young college graduates.
Most of all government officials will need to make some fundamental changes in their way of thinking. Currently, the policy-makers are letting the employers â€• or capital â€• do as they have done, while racking brains how to reallocate the pie among the employees â€• the labor â€• in a zero-sum game.
From now on, they must instead come up with ways to improve a sense of social responsibility among businesses so that both the corporate and labor can live in co-prosperity.