Unlike the universities of Korea, those in Germany do not charge their students. Nevertheless, German high school students’ college entrance rate rests at about 40 percent. This rate is surprising compared to Korea, since despite the high tuition fees, the nation’s college entrance rate had once skyrocketed all the way up to 77.8 percent back in 2009. Such drastic contrast between Germany and Korea regarding college entrance comes from the organized employment system that allows newly graduated high school students to become employed. Will this highly praised system of Germany be adaptable to Korean society?
In order to solve the soaring youth unemployment rate in South Korea, the government presented a new policy that could help high school graduates to get a job. The Ministry of Education (MOE) and Korea Student Aid Foundation (KSAF) announced, “To provide practical assistance to students who get vocational training and jobs in small businesses after graduating high school, we will be implementing a new policy called *High School Employment Related Grant Project*.”
According to government figures, the High School Employment Related Grant Project is a policy which provides three million won per student for those who are in their last years of high school. Moreover, it also guarantees a position in a company for the student who meets the criteria of the Metropolitan and Provincial Offices of Education. With this system set in place, it is expected that Korea’s unemployment rate – 12.5 percent in 2012 – will drop as low as that of Germany’s, which remains unshaken at about 6.8 percent.
The new project is positively evaluated as it encourages the government to actively support high school graduate employees. However, this policy also has its dark side. Subsidy policies should be determined very carefully, since they account for a large part of the national budget. For example, the Small-medium Businesses’ Grant for Additional Youth Employment project showed poor performance compared to their initial plans. The ministry has set aside 4.5 billion won to pay incentives for 900 young people last year, but only 1.45 billion won was actually implemented. It is hard to affirm that the new project will not encounter such problems.
Furthermore, on the other hand, there are suggestions saying that the government should focus more on reforming the overall structure of employment systems. Instead of giving incentives to young employees, it might be better to support small and medium-sized enterprises themselves. Han Yo-sep, a researcher from the Korea Development Institute (KDI) mentioned that most young people are aware of the importance of their first jobs throughout their lives and are careful about their choices. Therefore, rather than subsidizing a small portion of numerous young employees, the government should create a social atmosphere in which small and medium-sized businesses can meet a wage level that young employees can be satisfied with.
Although there might be some problems or deficiencies within the new policy, the project has great significance in that it is a real starting point in lowering the high unemployment rate of the youth. This policy is quite noteworthy as it is considered to be the trigger for supporting high school graduates, since most policies so far have mostly been focused on the employment of college students. If implemented with thorough inspection, the project can be a great starting point for the next generation of youth to finally lift off the shades that have continually blinded them from the light of the job market. Until then, knitting a clear blueprint will be the next challenge that lies ahead for the MOE.