[News Focus] Are civil service jobs haven for young generation?


SEJONG — Over the past decade, more young job seekers in the nation have prepared for civil service examinations, which reflects unstable job security in the private sector including conglomerates.

Furthermore, a majority of these job seekers aimed to become low-grade civil servants, not senior government officials, which requires sitting for the Public Administration Examination.

According to data from the Ministry of Personnel Management, 202,978 people applied for the written test to select 4,953 civil servants of the lowest ninth tier in 2018, with a competition rate of one out of 41.

According to Statistics Korea, 36.9 percent of job seekers in their 20s and early 30s were preparing for the civil service examinations.

In the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, conglomerate-based units and commercial banks were the most popular among ordinary college graduates.

In recent years, TV documentaries have spotlighted those in their 20s who study day and night at “training camps” on the outskirts of Seoul or reside in Noryangjin-dong, Seoul, where many civil service exam-oriented institutes are clustered.

A sophomore surnamed Kim, 24, said, “Being affected by a TV program featuring civil-servant preparations, I live apart from my family in Noryangjin after being discharged from military duty.”

Kim added he has pinned hopes on President Moon Jae-in’s pledge that the government will increase the number of civil servants by 170,000 and create 810,000 jobs in the public sector by 2022, when the president’s term expires.

Then-presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in visits a private institute for civil service exams in Noryangjin-dong, Seoul, in February 2017. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, a female college graduate in her 20s said she had resigned from a financial services company in Seoul after two years. “I saw many seniors in their 50 and 40s quit via voluntary redundancy programs. I have started studying for state-funded agencies, though it is somewhat late.”

A resident of Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, in his mid-40s said, “I’m envious of civil servants in community service centers or ward offices. I was proud of myself for several years in working for a big manufacturing company in my early 30s.” He has owned a coffee shop for about three years.

The number of youths aspiring to become firefighters or policemen is also rapidly growing, regardless of their majors in college, though such tough jobs had been popular among high school graduates in past decades.

Experts have raised concerns over youths focusing on stable livelihoods due to the experiences of losing their jobs or witnessing their parents facing difficulties during the 1997 Asian currency crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis. 

(Graphic by Heo Tae-seong/Korea Herald)

University of Science & Technology President Moon Kil-choo was quoted by a media outlet as saying that “(a large portion of) college freshmen say that their wish is to become civil servants or enter state-run agencies.”

Moon reportedly attributed the situation to college education.

“Enterprises could continue innovative activities when they secure figures with entrepreneurship. Amid the coming era of the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’ college education has not changed. Many students are still accustomed to memorization in their exams,” he said.

A poll of 413 college graduates preparing for civil service exams, conducted by a group of theses authors, showed that they struggle with uncertainty over whether they will be able to pass the highly competitive tests in light of the current private-sector job market with high youth unemployment rate in recent years and unstable job security.

More than 20 percent of the respondents picked the stable pay as their reason for wanting to become civil servants, followed by the youth jobless rate with 14.3 percent. Only 2.9 percent picked sense of duty for the nation.

The survey also showed that respondents study 8.7 hours a day and the expected length of time needed to pass the exams is 24.3 months on average.

By Kim Yon-se ([email protected])

Source : koreaherald

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