Job Policy for Whom?
The term “climbing up the social ladder” is most intuitively and directly associated with ‘education.’ Albeit not being its primary and utmost purpose, education has been deemed as a stepping stone for the escalation of social status—better education tends to guarantee higher possibilities for getting prestigious white collar jobs. Such correlation has been explicitly displayed within the Korean society. Big conglomerates or well-paid specialist jobs are mostly reserved for the elites from top-ranking universities, and the status quo tends to remain throughout. This naturally caused fierce competition for high ranking universities, which are concentrated in Seoul and its vicinity. Such phenomenon rendered a social atmosphere where the “Great Wall” was built between local provinces and the metropolitan region. While students attending universities within the metropolitan boundaries were deemed competitive, others in local provinces were ostracized from the mainstream prestigious job market.
In an attempt to alleviate the deep disparity that lies between universities located in and outside of Seoul metropolitan area, the Moon administration adopted two measures—“blind recruitment” and “local talent quota system.” The “blind recruitment” policy bans public sectors from demanding any information unrelated to job competency—for instance, education, gender, physical conditions, photo of oneself—on application papers or resumes. The “local talent quota system” calls on governmental bodies that have moved to local provinces to give 30% recruitment quota to applicants of ‘local talents.’
The local talent quota system faced harsh opposition from students attending schools in the metropolitan region, as they are not subjected to such beneficiary—Sogang falls into this category as well. The Sogang Herald conducted a survey to 144 students to gain an insight of what Sogangers think about the current policy.
Reasons for its Opposition
An overwhelming percentage of students opposed to adopting the policy. 55% of the students answered that they are ‘very dissatisfied’ with the policy, 31%, ‘dissatisfied.’ (See Table 1) The local talent quota system is problematized mainly for three reasons.
The first—and the most frequently brought up by students attending university located around the metropolitan region—is the issue of reverse discrimination. The students who attend or have graduated from universities in metropolitan region raised their voices against the policy, arguing that the policy is a discrimination for people who have done nothing wrong but work hard. Aware of the realistic tendency of job markets that emphasize academic career, they have studied hard to enter prestigious universities, but only to face another hindrance that gives disadvantage. They view their advantageous position in the job market as a fruit they have earned from long years devoted to academic studies.
The second problem regards the contradiction that lies between the two policies—blind recruitment and local talent quota system—that the Moon administration aims to implement. Following the blind recruitment policy, applicants’ alma mater cannot be specified on application papers. This denotes the intention that applicants’ academic career shall not act as a criterion for recruitment. In stark contrast, the local talent quota system provides exclusive benefits to applicants that graduated certain universities. The premises and the orientation of the two polices point to different directions—one cannot stand while the other lives. An anonymous Soganger who participated in the survey quoted that “the two cannot coexist.” Another complained that “the contradictory measures are hard to accept” and said that he wanted “the government to have logical consistency within their policies.”
The last is the irrational and arbitrary definition of “local talents.” The policy defines “local talents” by the location of one’s highest level of schooling—in most cases, university. In other words, only the students who attended universities located in local provinces can be subjected to the benefits. This definition renders ironic situations where students who attended a local school after living in the metropolitan area for more than 20 years are classified as “local talents” but not vice versa. In the survey asking whether the classification standard of a local talent is logical, 66% of the Sogang students answered that it is ‘very illogical.’ (See Table 2) One Sogang student lodged a complaint that he had “lived in a provincial area for 20 years and have lived in Seoul for only five, yet was excluded from the ‘local talent’ policy.” On similar groundings, another Soganger stated that he thinks “the true definition of ‘local talents’ should embrace people who have lived for more than ten years, graduating elementary, middle and high school in the particular local regions.” Because of such arbitrary standards, there is no telling what kind of background one has come from. Consequently, it is doubtful that the policy would narrow the gap between students living in and outside of the capital region.
In Regards to the Gap that Lies between Regions
Despite the strong opposition that Sogang students had towards the implementation of local talents quota system, it was interesting to see that voices were much softer when debating on the necessity for giving systematic help to students from provincial universities. In the questionnaire asking whether there needs to be affirmative action for local university students, one percent of the students answered that it is ‘very necessary,’ 15% ‘necessary’, and 16% ‘not sure.’ It is true that over 69% respectively answered ‘unnecessary’ and ‘very unnecessary.’ (See Table 3) However, it is worth recognizing that the level of antipathy was much lower compared to questionnaires exclusively on local talents quota system.
This result indicates that Sogang students, whilst located within the Maginot boundaries, recognize the severity of the deeply-rooted disparities that exist amongst people of different academic backgrounds. They are aware of the handicaps given to students from provincial schools and sympathize with the cause to change the status quo. Yet, the solution that the Moon administration provided just was not the fit.
What, then, Is to be Considered in Recruitment Process?
It is hard to deny that academic careers can reveal the applicants’ capabilities. It is conventionally believed that students who endeavor to get good grades in high school tend to enroll in higher ranking universities. Hence, universities can function as a screening device of how hard-working and zealous a person is. To a certain extent, academic careers can also guarantee academic capability or level of logical thinking, as universities select talented students they want to teach in their campus. It is not hard to follow the logic as to why corporations opt to reflect academic careers in high percentage during recruitment process, especially given the economic efficiency.
However, there are a lot more that academic career itself cannot prove. Academic capability may not always match suitability for work. Academic performance can depend on too many variables —for instance, people with more economic stability have more possibility of performing better as they can afford the time and money to invest in academic works. One’s potentials are also important factors that cannot be measured by the rankings of one’s school.
Aware of the ups and downs of judging applicants based on their academic career, the recruitment policies that the Moon administration aimed to implement added fuel on the already-hot debate on what factors should be considered in recruitment. It was conventionally one’s academic career that played a dominant role in deciding where in the social hierarchy one’s job would be located. However, witnessing and experiencing the social ills fostered by the alter mater-oriented competition structure, there are more and more voices that demand to deviate from the past.
The vast majority of Sogangers who participated in the survey remained neutral to the question asking opinions on academic career taking part in the recruitment grading system. 77% of them answered that academic career is ‘one of the many factors that can be considered.’ 16% agreed that academic career should be reflected in recruitment process while 6% disagreed. (See Table 4)
The question naturally moved on to the next, then, asking what factors should be taken most into account in recruitment. 45% of the surveyed Sogangers answered that work experience should be prioritized. The answer was followed with academic career getting 20%, certificate, 7%, and CGPA, 5%. The ‘others’ category earned 22% of the answer.
It is not to say that education should act as a ladder to move up the social hierarchy. However, problems occur when everyone queues to take the same ladder. The overly-populated concentration on a sole competition is bound to leave the majority stuck on the ground. Rather, it is much better when there are more ladders to climb from the get-go. Mood administration’s local talents quota system is a policy that cannot root out the systematic problems—giving few more chances cannot change the core causes. However, it is meaningful that such policies can stimulate worthy debates on a topic that has remained deep in the Korean society for such a long time.
Kim Yu-jeong, Public Opinion Reporter |