Job Quality Premium: Trend Changes in Job Quality in South Korea

While a large body of literature has established the trend and inequalities in the average earnings premium for a degree, there is a dearth of evidence on the trend and inequalities in a broader aspect of graduates’ labour outcomes, or job quality. The lack of evidence on the trend and inequalities in the ‘job quality premium’ for different groups is problematic because it has a direct impact on the amount of resource devoted to addressing unequal labour market outcomes in a broader aspect than earnings alone. This study highlights the need for allocating more resources to wider dimensions of the labour market and graduates’ outcomes, besides earnings, to improve the overall quality of employment and reduce unequal labour market outcomes. In this study we draw on the Korean Working Conditions Survey (KWCS) and find that five job quality domains, namely Prospects, Skills and Discretion, Work Intensity, Social Environment, and Physical Environment, worsened between 2006 and 2020, with job prospects being worsened most rapidly. Despite the overall worsening trends of job quality, university graduates enjoy better job quality in all domains but work intensity than non-graduates, implying university provides wider benefits for graduates besides the earnings premium. In most domains however, such job quality premium has decreased, which seems to be relevant to the over-supply of highly skilled workers, or graduates, in the labour market.