Securing Equal Work Opportunities: Korea’s Mandatory Quota Policy and Training to Promote Employment of People with Disabilities
Park Jeong-gil has severe cerebral palsy. While one might assume that this would limit his employment opportunities, Jeong-gil in fact works as a web designer at an advertising company. He completed a web-design training course at a job training center for people with disabilities, and subsequently found a job through the employment service provided by the Korea Employment Agency for the Disabled (KEAD). At work, he benefits from assistive technology devices, including an adjustable desk and special keyboards. He shows that “if an adequate working environment is provided, people with disabilities can surely work.” He receives more than a minimum wage, is enrolled in social security insurance, and pays earned income taxes.
Prior to the early 1990s, Park Jeong-gil’s situation would have been unlikely, as people with disabilities encountered significant difficulties in finding employment. In the midst of Korea’s rapid growth, national policy emphasized other arenas of economic development and reconstruction from the Korean War the in early 1950’s and focused less on the welfare and employment of people with disabilities. However, awareness of the rights of people with disabilities increased throughout the 1980s, and especially with the international spotlight brought by the 1988 Seoul Olympics and Paralympics, public interest turned more to this issue. Policymakers responded to growing public calls for greater opportunities for the disabled by passing the ‘Promotion, etc. of Employment of Disabled Persons Act’ in order to increase work opportunities for people with disabilities. The Act created a mandatory employment system that obligated national and local governments, public organizations, and private enterprises of a certain size to hire people with disabilities for a certain proportion of positions (See Table 1). In order to enforce implementation, the Act imposed levies on employers who did not meet the proportion of employees with disabilities. Also, the government established the KEAD in September of 1990 with the mandate to implement the quota system. The implementation of the mandatory employment quota system led to additional job creation of 197,000 jobs in the competitive labor markets. Additionally, 164,000 individuals with disabilities are employed in private companies and central and local governments reaching an actual employment rate 2.14 percentage in 2015.
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