firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
Bill to outlaw employment discrimination against education background
Just as ants at a picnic can't resist food, politicians can't help themselves when a social issue starts to grab headlines. After students and parents raised complaints about college tuition, politicians proposed "half-priced" tuition. When some people complained that college tuition is expensive because more than 80 percent of high-school students go to college, lawmakers moved to make it illegal to discriminate against a person's education level.
Grand National Party floor leader Hwang Woo-yea said recently that graduates from professional high schools should get more respect in order to change the widespread perception that only college education promises decent jobs. He said we must promote the belief that one`s ability is more important than one`s educational background. He vowed to pass a bill, proposed last year, prohibiting discrimination against a person's education background. He argued that the law will root out discrimination against educational background which distorts the allocation and use of human resources and deepens the feeling of comparative deprivation and inferiority among poor people.
But one of the unintended consequences will be that once the barrier is removed, fewer students will try to go to college. Another is that professional school graduates will have more and better opportunities in the job market. The bill states in Article 9 that employers should not discriminate against workers or candidates due to their educational backgrounds without due reason in case of 1) recruiting and hiring, 2) paying wages and other pays and benefits, 3) firing and retiring. Employers should not demand academic credentials more than deemed necessary for a job when recruiting and hiring a worker.
The term of "discrimination without due reason" frequently used in the bill can be interpreted in so many ways that it is bound to stir up controversy. One can be very subjective in determining discrimination in each controversial case.
The bill does not specify whether to require an employer not to ask anything about a job applicant`s educational background or only about the name of his or her school. A candidate may not have to provide his or her academic background in a resume and will not be asked about it in during a job interview. It will be difficult to assess a candidate without information about his or her academic background as education is one of the major factors determining the quality of one's life.
The bill views the relationship between one`s ability and educational background as negative. It ignores the fact that academic performance can be a useful yardstick in assessing a candidate's ability. As such, it undermines the motivation of students to enter top universities and the efforts of schools to improve their education quality.
The bill infringes management`s right
Worst of all, the bill undermines the autonomy of companies to decide whom to hire and fire according to their needs and puts that authority in the hands of politicians. Personnel decisions are at the core of a business's management decisions. Companies are prevented from acting in their own interests by politicians who will not suffer from or take responsibility for any business failures. They should allow companies to hire and manage their work forces without any external pressures.
If the high university entrance rate is a serious problem, then the government should address more fundamental reasons rather than discrimination against education background. The passion for higher education among students and parents is mostly driven by Korean culture. If the goal is to contain the number of students going to university, it can be more effective to apply the "benefit principle" and make students more prudent in deciding their education path rather than offering half-priced tuition.
Politicians should face reality
Politicians should face reality and listen to what businesses say if they really want to change the perception about professional school graduates. Employers complain that the students are no longer capable enough because they aren't fully focused on job preparation. Even college graduates are not trained well, they say. If politicians are going to intervene further, then they need to develop more incentives for outstanding students to apply for professional high schools and improve their education quality so that students can leave those schools as technicians and engineers with specialized skills.
By Shin Joongsop, professor at Kangwon National University