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99.2% of Level 9 Government Employees Are University Degree Holders

99.2% of Level 9 Government Employees Are University Degree Holders

Posted May. 12, 2007 08:26,   


The equation ‘Level 9 employees are high school graduates’ has long been broken. According to the Civil Service Commission, 45.9% of successful applicants for level 9 government employment were university (including 2-year college) degree holders in 1986. That percentage rose to 91% in 1996, and to 99.2% in 2004. Records have not been available since then in order to prevent discrimination using this criterion. But the human resource managers in each department say that “all who pass the level 9 government employment are graduates from 4-year universities."

The case is the same in level 9 regional government employment. According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the percentage of 4-year university degree holders among successful applicants for level 9 employment was 60.9% in 1996 and 90.4% in 2006.

Though graduates of big-name universities were not easy to find among the level 9 government employees before the foreign exchange crisis, it is not so these days. Among level 9 applicants who were employed by Seocho-gu in 2005, 3 were graduates of Korea University, 3 of Ewha Womans University, and 1 of Yonsei University. Yongsan-gu Office of Seoul City also has employed 12 graduates of Seoul National University, Korea University, Yonsei University, and Ewha Womans University since 2003.

This trend of highly educated persons being employed in low-level vocations on a large scale has led to both positive and negative results in the actual work sites.

In the first place these highly educated level 9 government employees are bringing new winds of change to government bodies where change is bound to be slow.

They actively use their abilities to obtain promotions. This leads to bottom-up reformations by encouraging executives to develop their own skills, which in turn motivates each autonomous government to deploy their human resources.

But not a small number of level 9 employees who sought these jobs taking only their `security` into consideration easily feel bored by simple repetitive work and feel frustrated. An increasing number of such people are preparing for the level 7 employment exam or are seeking jobs at public enterprises behind the backs of their seniors.

There are also many instances where they harm the organizations they work for rather than making contributions. As a high-level public worker in Busan Metropolitan City points out, "A public servant needs to readily make devotions to the nation, but highly educated level 9 employees only devote themselves to being promoted, and they seem to find it hard to harmonize with others."

Experts have negative views in general on educational inflation among low level government employees.

Park Seong-jun, a researcher at the Korea Economic Research Institute, says, “It is understandable that individuals nowadays favor secure jobs, but the phenomenon of excessive levels of education found in the Korean society is a signal that something has gone wrong. The negative effects will only increase as more unmotivated people with good educational backgrounds become level 9 employees."

Many also point out that such phenomenon is not favorable from the point of view of efficient utilization of high-quality human resources on the national level.

Park Jong-su, head of human resources and planning team at Seoul Metropolitan Government, says, “In a world of global competition where the top 20% of high-quality human resource produces the wealth for the remaining 80%, the phenomenon where highly educated people are employed for simple tasks cannot be viewed positively. It seems the government has come to a point where it needs to think deeply about the issue of positioning human resources."