The Korea Herald


Over half of new hires in S. Korea are college graduates: data

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : April 24, 2024 - 14:19

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

Among newly hired employees in Korea in 2023, 50.5 percent were college graduates.

Of the 28.41 million people newly hired across the country, 14.36 million had a higher education degree, according to the Korean Statistical Information Service run by Statistics Korea. The figure includes graduates from two-year college courses and those with postgraduate degrees.

The number of new employees with tertiary education degrees rose by 1.2 percent compared to the year before. The figure rose from 30.2 percent in 2003, surpassing the 40 percent mark for the first time in 2011.

Specifically, 31.8 percent of all new hires last year had a bachelor's degree, 13.9 percent had graduated from two-year colleges, and 4.8 percent had degrees from graduate schools. About 37.1 percent of the new employees were high school graduates, 6.5 percent were middle school graduates, and 5.9 percent graduated from elementary school.

The rising percentage of new employees with higher education degrees is largely due to the growing number of people receiving a college education compared to 20 years ago. According to the Korean Educational Development Institute, 76.2 percent of the population in the "age deemed suitable for higher education" -- between 18 and 21 -- were receiving education at the college level or higher in 2023.

This marks a 17.2 percent surge compared to 2003.

A joint report by the KEDI and the Education Ministry in December showed that 69.6 percent of college graduates were in employment in 2022.

Wednesday's report also showed that larger corporations were far more likely to snatch up job applicants with a higher level of education than smaller firms.

About 79.5 percent of the 3.08 million new employees at large corporations had graduated from college, with 12.5 percent having degrees beyond a bachelor's. Only 18.9 percent were high school graduates.

Large corporations are defined as those with a market capitalization of 5 trillion won ($3.6 billion) or above.

On the contrary, 47 percent of the new workers at small and medium enterprises -- which have less than 300 employees -- were college graduates, with just 3.8 percent having a master's degree or a doctorate. High school graduates accounted for 39.3 percent.

The report showed that the increase in the percentage of college graduates was more significant among new employees of large corporations, compared to SMEs, with the former rising by 24.2 percent compared to the latter which increased by 19 percent.

Earlier this week, other data from Statistics Korea showed that large corporations are far more successful in hiring younger employees than SMEs. Monday's report showed that while 46.6 percent of the new hires at large corporations were younger than 40, only 30.8 percent of those at SMEs were in their 20s or 30s.