Young Koreans Find It Harder to Climb Social Ladder

      February 02, 2016 12:47

      Younger Koreans are finding it increasingly hard to climb the social ladder, according to a study by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.

      Young people often rely on financial support from their parents to earn university degrees that can get them secure jobs and housing, the researchers said on Monday, increasing inequality.

      The study of 1,342 people divided them into three age groups -- 21-41, 42-56, and 57-76 -- to examine social mobility.

      From June to September last year, researchers analyzed the effects of parents' educational background, job and class on the academic achievement, jobs and income of their children.

      It suggests that social immobility is more common among people in their 20s, 30s and 40s than the older generation.

      For instance, 35.1 percent of subjects in the 21-41 age group with parents in the lower income bracket ended up remaining in that bracket.

      Only 2.9 percent of them managed to move up to the middle or high-income brackets.

      For those in the 57-76 age group born during the country's industrialization, the proportion who moved into a higher social class was 6.3 percent, and for the 42-56 age group born during the country's democratization it was 11 percent.

      That suggests Korea is returning to pre-industrial standards of upward mobility.

      Researchers divided subjects into manual laborers, skilled workers, service and sales staff, office workers and professionals and found that children of manual laborers and professionals were more likely to stay in their bracket, and the trend was more conspicuous among younger people.

      The proportion where parents and children are all professionals was 37.1 percent in the 21-41 age group, and that where both parents and children are manual laborers was 9.4 percent.

      There was also an increasing tendency for parents' academic background to impact the educational achievements of their children.

      In the oldest group the proportion of children of university-degree holders who also got degrees stood at 64 percent, rising to 79.7 percent in the middle-aged group and 89.6 percent in the youngest group.

      But the researchers said, "It has become more difficult for members of the low-income bracket to rise to high economic status even if they achieve a high level of education."

      "In the old days, education was the biggest factor determining earnings, but that is not the case any more," they added. "Today the social connections of parents and their economic background have become important factors." 

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