ENDING HIRING DISCRIMINATION
Govt to revise workplace laws, issue guidelines on questions firms can ask job seekers
WHEN Joo Yerim, 28, applied for a job at an art distribution company, here, last year, she was required to provide her height and weight on the application. The experience left her angry and frustrated.
“That has nothing to do with my ability to work,” said Joo, a university graduate who had interned at similar companies in the United States.
The questions faced by Joo, who eventually landed a position at an art magazine, would bring an avalanche of complaints and a consumer boycott in many countries. In others, the firm would be hauled before the courts. But in South Korea, employers routinely demand such information, along with personal details like an applicant’s age, religion and even the occupations of their family members.
It adds up to what President Moon Jae-in says is discrimination against people who are less affluent or deviate from the mainstream. Moon pledged during his campaign to prohibit such practices as part of his fight against growing inequality, particularly in the job market.
As South Korea continues to move up the value chain from heavy industry to a more creative economy, diversity will become more important.
Many young people, even those with college degrees, see themselves as largely excluded from careers, with little chance of being able to afford to get married and raise children.
Sometimes the information sought by companies veers into strange territory.
Yang Changmo, 26, said he was once required to provide his blood type, and was frequently asked about his “drinking and smoking capacity” during interviews. Heavy drinking with colleagues is a core element of the country’s work culture.
“I think they chose me over the female applicant with almost the same qualifications as mine because I said I was a good drinker,” said Yang, who worked in the hotel industry before quitting to find a new position.
Moon’s administration is working to fulfil his pledges.
It would issue guidelines on questions private companies could ask later this month, before revising workplace laws to make those guidelines binding, said the labour and finance ministries in a joint statement.
The government is already taking action in the public sector.
By the end of this month, 481 public offices and companies will be banned from asking job seekers for certain personal information, including family relations and physical details.
Applicants will also no longer need to submit a photo of themselves. Because a civil service test must be taken, in many cases they also won’t be required to submit their educational background. Bloomberg
Many young South Koreans, even those with college degrees, see themselves as largely excluded from careers, with little chance of being able to afford to get married and raise children.