Korean upturn improves prospects

January 28, 2000

The impressive recovery of South Korea's economy is good news for students. Better than expected trading figures have enabled leading employers to announce plans to increase the number of graduates they intend to hire.

According to estimates, the leading chaebol, or commercial conglomerates, will hire about 5,000 students before the annual round of graduation ceremonies begin in the spring, compared with only 1,000 or so last year.

The number of jobs available this year will still be below the 1996 peak, when the five chaebol were offering about 10,000 posts.

The Samsung Group, which did not hire any graduates in the second half of the 1998-99 academic year, plans to recruit 2,000. Samsung, like most other big employers, slashed recruitment after the collapse of the country's economy in 1998.

The crisis resulted in rising graduate unemployment and fears that fewer school pupils would apply for university in a country that boasts one of the world's highest university enrolment rates. Falling family incomes have made it more difficult for many parents to pay for their children's higher education.

Female graduates continue to be the biggest losers in the annual competition for high-status jobs with leading companies. In spite of recent equal opportunities initiatives, many women still find their career options are restricted to low-status, low-paid jobs.

The job difficulties facing senior students have meant increased business for the growing number of charm schools that offer a range of job-preparation programmes. The courses on offer seek to develop the sort of communication, personal presentation and other employability skills that help students obtain jobs.

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