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Industry Report

Industry reports, briefs issued by Samsung Economic Research Institute

Korea’s Skilled Workforce and Tasks for Development

Korea’s Skilled Workforce and Tasks for Development

CHO Moon-Kyo, BAE Young-Il, CHOI Byong-Sam

July 22, 2013

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Korea placed first at the 2013 WorldSkills Competition, a premier event for skills recognition and advancement. It was the 18th time that Korea stood on top since making its debut in 1967, and the fourth consecutive win since 2007. Korea has traditionally been strong in machinery, metal, electric/electronics and architecture fields, but in this year's competition it also gained many medals in service and design.

The traditionally top listed countries in the competition are manufacturing powerhouses including Germany, Switzerland and Japan. This year, Brazil, which currently is actively nurturing skills, has jumped to fifth from 15th in 2005.

Despite its stellar record, Korean public interest in the country's participation and performance at WorldSkills Competition is declining. This is perhaps due to people taking winning for granted and the changing status of the event in line with the growth of IT and service industries.

During the 1960s and 1970s, WorldSkills Competition triggered a skills boom and served as the basis for Korea's industrialization and enhancing the nation's status. But in the 1980s, the emergence of information technology and service industries led to declining interest in skilled manual labor. This trend remained intact until the latter half of the 2000s, when industries recognized that a concerted effort to develop skilled workers was needed to strengthen their competitiveness. Policymakers also concluded that fostering skilled workers in terms of both quality and quantity and changing attitudes toward skilled work as a viable career would help resolve youth unemployment amid a glut of college graduates, job insecurity and a declining middle class as well as lift national competitiveness.

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