After the 19th presidential election, a new government came to power. The new government is listening to young people’s voice and is planning new youth policies. It promised to increase the state scholarship budget by 1.2 trillion won, to cut the interest rate on student loans, and to increase the number of dormitories in universities by 50 thousand. In the meantime, youth policies such as student loans and national scholarships have been underway. Despite the government’s implementation of these policies, high tuition fees, and lack of housing and jobs still remain as problems.
Young people are getting a 2017 Job Fair hosted by Seoul, Nowon-gu, and Dobong-gu on June 2nd.
/Photograph by Hwang Hae-su
Current policies for youths
The government has subsidized tuition fees for university students and parents and maintained a lower student loan interest rate than commercial banks. In 2011, the government announced state scholarship measures to help students in economically difficult status. Domestic university students with Korean nationality whose decile are lower than the eighth decile (annualized income of 67 million won or less) can receive the support of state scholarships. The lower the income level, the greater the amount of support.
The Korea Student Aid Foundation (KOSAF) has maintained a low interest rate policy on student loans. The government started with a loan rate of 5.8 percent in 2009 and has steadily lowered the interest rate. As of the second semester of 2016, the interest rate on student loans had been reduced to 2.5 percent, and it has been frozen to 2.5 percent in the first semester of 2017.
University students by “Albamon,” which provides information for employers and employees of part time jobs, surveyed 2,557 university students. According to the survey, the average monthly housing cost of the students is 630 thousand won. The government has set up dormitories and public rental housings for young people to solve the housing cost problems of students who live far from school.
KOSAF-Banknotes University Students Dormitory Hall with only 150 thousand won opened this year and students moved in it for the first time. If a university has signed an MOU with the KOSAF, its students can receive a housing scholarship of 50 thousand won at the end of the semester. In addition, the “Happy House” is a public rental housing that is constructed near the work place, the school, or in a place where the public transportation is convenient. It is supplied to young people with the rental price which is 20-40 percent lower than its surrounding price.
As a result of the persistent unemployment crisis, the government established University Creation Job Centers in the universities that provide career guidance services regarding employment and start-up to young people. They were first established in 21 universities nationwide by 2015. The number of centers operated by universities increased from 41 in 2016 to 61 in 2017 to allow more students to get the services. This year, the centers will receive a budget of 18 billion won in total.
The young people are taking parts in the 2030 politics youth goup's ceremony which will participate in publishing the youth polcies.
/Photography from Google
Limitations of current youth policies
There has been no significant change in tuition fees over the past five years. The evaluation for the change of tuition fees made by the Ministry of Education was different from the students’ evaluation. The Ministry announced that the government and the private sector invested about seven trillion won, which was half of the total tuition fee of 14 trillion won. On the other hand, civil society groups and student organizations said students are unlikely to tell that the tuition fee is reduced. They pointed out that only 41.5 percent of the students received the scholarships and they were affected by the change in income.
Jang Yu-jin (Senior, Korean Education) is currently receiving a state scholarship. However, she is not satisfied with the policy. She said, “Originally, I had received a scholarship of two million won. However, when my father got a monthly pay rise by 300 thousand won, the amount of scholarship decreased because the income decile increased. I was embarrassed that the income decile moves around with slight income differences. Also, I often saw my friends who were never wealthy could not be supported by state scholarships.”
When it comes to the policy of education expenses loan, if students do not get a proper job after receiving a loan, becoming a debtor is a fact of life. The KOSAF announced that the number of student loan users increased from 540 thousand in 2006 to 920 thousand in 2015. As the number of loan users increases, the more young people are unable to repay their loans on time. Among the 920 thousand student loan users in 2015, 90 thousand people delayed payment, five times more than those of nine years ago. Because of the lack of state scholarship, Jang Yu-jin received a loan from the KOSAF. She said she is heavily in debt and it is burdensome.
The government has announced that it has created a total of 150 thousand jobs as a result of measures for youth employment since 2015. The government announced a total of nine youth employment policies, but the youth unemployment rate increased to 10.9 percent in April 2017. Even the counselors who work at the University Creation Job Center are mostly contract workers and uncomfortable with recruitment, since the policies for youth employment changes frequently. It is difficult for them to provide smooth employment support to students.
In addition, there are not enough houses for young people. When recruiting young people to live in the KOSAF- Banknotes University Students Dormitory Hall, the competition rate is high. The competition rate for the first dormitory was 4:1, and the officials expect the next competition rate to be higher. The fourth recruitment of “Happy House” residents, which took place from January 12th to 16th this year, was at an average competition rate of 5.8:1. Among them, the number of housing for the youth was very low, and the competition rate was very high at 280.5:1.
Song Il-ho, the professor of the Department of Economics, pointed out that youth policies cannot help the youth in the long run. He continued, “State scholarship, student loan interest support, and young people’s job creation policy may be effective in the short-term. These policies may be beneficial in the short-run for students to study without financial worries or in reducing the number of delinquent borrowers. The fundamental reason why the youth policies of past governments could not have a great effect was due to these short-term measures.”
Lack of investment in youth policies
The Youth Community Union (Y Union), which was formed to demand a better quality of working environment for young people, claimed many youth policies were proposed during the general election last year, but only a few of them have been implemented so far. Besides, the government discarded the bill on youths, even though the Y Union has requested it for legislation.
Kim Young-min, the director of the Y Union said, “Investment and implementation of the youth policies are generally insufficient, compared to the other fields of policies. Many politicians are proposing policies for the youth just as their pledges while corresponding results are not coming out because of the absence of specific measures.”
Korea society causes the low support towards the youth
In April 2017, the unemployment rate of young people hit the highest record, 11.2 percent, while it was 9.8 percent in 2016. This growing unemployment rate of the youth is an example, which shows that the government’s supporting level to the youth has remained without any progress over the years.
A senior researcher of the Young Professionals Institute of Korea (YPIK) Ko Gang-seob mentioned, “Although youth problems such as high unemployment rate and housing problem are not able to make an immediate outcome, the government wants to see proper results right after they put the efforts. Therefore, the government tends to judge that spending budget for the young is like a bottomless pit.”
Kim Hyoung-yong, the professor of the Department of Sociology, also pointed out that the lack of support for the youth was due to the social fabric of Korea. He said, “In Korea, parents have to take all responsibility for the whole educational expenses, while the government does not support. Youth policy is weak, since this recognition is taken for granted. Also, competition is personalized. It made it difficult for young people to sing from the same hymn sheet for the matter.”
Furthermore, the society recognizes that the youth problem should be solved but it is still regarded as individuals’ responsibility, not the society’s. Many say young people are struggling to go to high ranked universities and get stable jobs because they want to come up to the standard that Korean society has set and apply it to themselves. Unless the society takes the youth matter as their responsibility, substantial supporting cannot be carried out.
Investment of the youth policies is needed
Absence of a proper youth policy may threaten future sustainability and potentiality because young people are the future generation who will lead the nation.
Senior Researcher Ko from the YPIK noted, “Backing up youth policies needs to be thought as an investment for the future. Social issues, such as extreme private education, competition for getting employed and low birth rate, are linked altogether. We need a breakthrough to cut off the vicious cycle and here, the young generation would be the key to do it. Yet, blind support might harm the youth’s independence, so the government has to foster the environment where the generation can fend for themselves.”
Young people, including university students also require adequate youth policies for their future by explaining that the youth matters are not only their own problems. Jang Yu-jin said, “University students belong to an economically vulnerable group because we have barriers to becoming the main agents of economic activity by ourselves. If we could not get enough financial support in terms of studying and being recruited, we would not be able to maintain the family and the elders, then the whole society will be affected eventually. If the government seriously wants to deal with social matters, they should reinforce the social structure.”
The length of time for which young people seek their career is limited. If they cannot find their jobs this time, the nation will lose valuable national assets, which will slow down the country’s potential growth rate. Professor Song mentioned, “If you neglect the problem of youth who are national assets, we will have to pay a huge amount of money and need a long recovery period in order to solve the problems that would have arised.”
Especially, the youth unemployment is directly related to the problem of low birthrate and aging in Korea. Professor Kim said, “If the government does not create jobs by supporting young people, the entire country will be in danger in the future. Job creation is the matter of Korea’s sustainability.”
As Moon Jae-in was elected as the new president, the new government announced their policies to solve youth problems, such as expansion of scholarship budget, paying student loan interest for two years, and organizing the youth committee. Some welcome their plans, but some warn that the young should monitor the government in order to get relevant support.
Senior Researcher Ko pointed out, “Many politicians are aware of the youth and do propose the plans for them during the campaign period, but identical policies have been suggested for years. This means that policy makers regard the youth as a means of their election.”
Accordingly, the director Kim Young-min from the Y Union highlights the roles of politicians and the youth. “For the effective and practical youth plan, society should embrace the youth’s problems and try to solve them together. Moreover, close cooperation is needed between the society and young people in the process of policy implementation.”
Hwang Hae-su firstname.lastname@example.org
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