Solutions for corona blues for jobs

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Solutions for corona blues for jobs

Kang Hye-ryun
The author is a professor of business management at Ewha Womans University.


The young generation of Korean society is prone to be subject to policy experiment or victim of circumstances of the times. In the Kim Dae-jung administration, Education Minister Lee Hae-chan abolished various academic tests, mock tests, and even autonomous night-time study with his firm belief that students should be able to get college admission with “specialty” alone. Students trusted the government announcement and stayed relaxed, and yet the first College Scholastic Ability Test in 2002 was one of the hardest. Students’ scores fell drastically, creating chaos. That is how the so-called “Lee Hae-chan generation,” which is labeled the “lowest level of academic competency in history,” was born.

Now, we have the “coronavirus generation.” Most of the incoming students of classes entering college in 2020 and 2021 haven’t seen classrooms or had a chance to engage in clubs or socialize with peers and older students. Juniors and seniors looking for jobs have a hard time finding an internship or temp-job opportunities during their vacation due to stringent social distancing rules and remote work. Meanwhile, large corporations and small- and medium-sized enterprises have shifted from regular recruitment to year-round recruitment.

As expansion of the digital economy and Covid-19 pandemic have changed industrial structures, companies are drawing on blank paper again. Shortage of high-tech workforce and aggravating management environment from various regulations have made companies more impatient. They are looking for experienced workers, who can be immediately put to use and produce outcomes, rather than new graduates. Also, skilled workers who are nurtured at small and medium-sized companies are moving to large enterprises, repeating a vicious cycle as in the past.

As uncertainty over global economic recovery grows, it is difficult for companies to maintain the regular recruitment method of hiring new employees at a large scale and train them. As companies’ intention to screen workers with experiences and expertise through year-round recruitment is understandable, jobseekers of the coronavirus generation are more discouraged than before. Job counselors advise not to miss recruitment information and have ample job-related experiences, including internships. So, most students who went to college during the pandemic are dispirited as they lived helplessly and watched video lectures on their own.

The biggest pending issue of Korean society is the aggravation of disparity in various fields. As ongoing recruitment values experiences, it makes it harder for new graduates to find a job and gives current employees more opportunities to move to other companies. That will result in disparity in employment. As the number of jobs decrease as a result of the spread of Covid-19, new graduates will take longer to find a job without regular recruitment. When young people’s entry into the labor market is delayed, it leads to a decrease in overall national income in the longer run, negatively affecting businesses.

These days, we find the wisdom of problem solving from a hybrid method — a compromised approach — in various contexts. Consumers choose hybrid automobiles as they combine the merits of combustion engine and electric vehicles to enhance fuel efficiency and lower environmental pollution. As Covid-19 spread, remote working has rapidly expanded. But this year, big tech companies in Silicon Valley and financial firms on Wall Street ordered employees to return to offices to address the limits of remote work. Employees protested. The solution was a hybrid system of reporting to the office one or two days a week and working from home for the rest.

Korean companies need to adopt the hybrid method of securing some workers for the fields requiring experience and expertise through year-round recruitment and maintaining regular recruitment at least until the pandemic ends and job market stabilizes. Hiring experienced workers through year-round recruitment could immediately make workflow smooth. But companies are the place where new workers hired based on their potential and passion can learn practical skills and management can nurture them for more profit.

Lately, companies focus on ESG (environmental, social and governance) management to meet global standards, including a corporate response to climate change. But what’s the most important for a company’s “sustainable management” is its philosophy and strategy for human resources. The Korea Development Institute diagnosed that the damage and wounds suffered by the young generation due to employment challenges are greater than the established generation. Even as the economy partly normalizes, the coronavirus generation lagging behind in employment and experience could continue for 10 years. It may be hard for companies to forcibly create full-time regular jobs, but if they provide predictable job opportunities by offering both regular and year-round recruitments, it will greatly help reduce the impact of employment shock on the young during the pandemic.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
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