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The Peninsula

South Korean Millennials’ Attitudes About the Future

Published June 13, 2016
Author: Jenna Gibson
Category: South Korea

By Jenna Gibson

While millennials around the world have generally optimistic views of their future, Korean youth are more cynical. A new survey of millennials by Manpower Group found that around the world, two thirds are optimistic about their job prospects, and 62 percent feel that if they lost their job they could find a similar or better position within three months.

Further, a similar Deloitte survey found that millennials generally feel less loyalty to their employers than previous generations did – 66 percent of those surveyed said they planned to leave their current job within five years, and only 16 percent said they would stay more than 10 years with their current employer. In Korea, these stats become even starker. Korean respondents to the Deloitte survey were more likely to say they would leave their current employer within five years (74 percent) and were slightly below the OECD average in optimism about their country’s economic situation.

Sampo Infographic

Meanwhile, a 2014 Pew Research Center report found that among the dozens of countries surveyed, South Korea was the only one where millennials were more pessimistic about their future than those aged 50-plus. According to Business Insider, “South Korea has the highest percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college or vocational degree. Yet only 32 percent say education is an important key to success, and a mere 22 percent say hard work is very important to getting ahead in life.”

These numbers speak to the bleak outlook of the so-called Sampo Generation in their 20s and 30s. Sampo refers to the three things the generation feels they have to give up in order to get ahead – dating, marriage and having children. Some have taken the cynicism even further, saying that they also have to give up employment, buying a home, and, finally, hope itself.

With Korea’s unemployment rate at a six-year high of 4.1 percent this spring, and  youth unemployment at an all-time high of 12.5 percent, the pessimism among millennials is perhaps not so surprising.

Korean Unemployment Graph

As the newly-elected Korean National Assembly begins their session, youth unemployment has been a major issue that the three major parties have pledged to address. And Korean President Park Geun Hye has made creating jobs, especially for youth, a priority – in 2015 she launched the Youth Hope Fund. The president personally contributed $17,000 and pledged to set aside 20 percent of her salary to fund the project, which crowdsources money to help companies hire more young workers.

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Aaron Guy Leroux’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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