[EDITORIALS]Schools must diversifyOver-educated young job seekers have become a serious problem in our society. According to the Korea Economic Research Institute, highly-educated job seekers applying for less demanding positions amounted to 29.1 percent of total job seekers nationwide, up from 18.9 percent in 1996 prior to the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Currently 82 percent of high school graduates go to college, while the number of jobs for college graduates has not grown apace. The recent survey showed that 68.5 percent of job seekers are lowering their expectations about possible salaries, seeking positions for which they are overqualified.
One of the keywords of this era of over-education is “the public exam herd,” a phrase referring to some 400,000 people who prepare for official exams to qualify for jobs as low- and mid-ranking public servants. Now we even call those people “the public exam bums,” or “the public exam drifters.” Highly educated people with masters’ degrees and even doctoral degrees are flocking to take exams just for office assistant positions. It is a sad portrait of our time when the economic structure is rapidly changing amid constant corporate restructuring.
Underemployment is miserable and painful for everyone. Those who do find jobs below their abilities are bound to have less job satisfaction or a sense of accomplishment. Thus the companies that hire them may also suffer from low productivity. It is a major social waste for Korea, whose economy is largely buttressed by labor and technology, as this can damage national competitiveness.
But this issue, caused by our obsessive fervor for education and the government’s failure to forecast demand for highly-educated workers, can not be solved easily.
As manufacturing industries are moving production overseas, knowledge-based industries are our only path to future development. This is why we should convert over-educated workers into potential energy for the future development. We should not just demand that they lower their expectations. We still have countless local companies struggling to find highly-educated workers. We need to accelerate efforts to diversify and improve the quality of education. Adopting measures in grade schools to allow different paths for those who wish to reach an advanced level and those who do not is also needed. It is time to end the era of education for the sake of education, which fails to adapt to changes in the job market. Over-education is a social waste that should no longer be neglected.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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