【GHRM MBA】《111-1_GHRM531》Thesis Writing Class – Is Standard Employment Good for All?: Gendered Institutional Logic of Employment Patterns in South Korea

On the 14th of October 2022, the Thesis Writing Class conducted by Professor François, under the Global Human Resource Management English MBA program, invited Dr. Francis Yoon from the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE), Germany, as a guest speaker to talk about his journey of conducting his thesis research that was awarded the 2022 David Marsden Best Paper Prize on “Is Standard Employment Good for All?: Gendered Institutional Logic of Employment Patterns in South Korea”.

Warming up the class with a quick introduction of his background, Professor Francis currently holds a Ph.D. in Management and a Philosophy Master’s degree in Modern Society and Global Transformations. He previously worked in the finance and accounting industry for several years prior to his pursuit of his master’s degree and Ph.D. Currently, at UDE, he has been teaching master’s classes related to economics and management.

Directing the class to the theme of the sharing, he painted a clear picture of some of the keywords that would be essential in understanding the basis of his research, such as explaining what standard employment contract means, the background of the labor situation in South Korea, the female education landscape in South Korea, etc. Interestingly, although South Korea has the highest college enrolment rate among the OECD countries, even for the female, however, based on his findings, this did not translate to a higher salary for the female, which contradicts the Human Capital Theory where the higher the education level, the higher the chance of getting a better paying job.

Discovering this issue during one of his field research projects in a shampoo factory in South Korea for another study, he decided to investigate further and look into the causality of this phenomenon. In the shampoo factory, 99% of the factory employees were female employees who were performing low-skilled jobs and were paid a minimum wage. Just like many other factories in South Korea, many of the low-skilled jobs were taken up by females. When cross-referencing to the Feminist theory, this phenomenon can seem to be explained on an institutional level where historically, South Korea has a culture of a male-breadwinner system which was deeply rooted back in the industrial era. Furthermore, when the South Korean economy was receiving heavy capital investment from Japanese companies back in 1965 for the textile industry, the workforce was mainly made up of women who did not receive high education. Even after the company grew in size, the institution within the companies did not change, contributing to the phenomenon. Professor Francis’s research eventually discovered that Human Capital Theory may not apply to all genders, especially to women, due to the country’s history/culture or institutional discrimination that was unintentionally set in place.

Concluding his sharing with some tips on his own on how to prepare for their thesis, students may first consider looking up some phenomena that they came upon and are interested in before having a deeper look into the issue. Once you have identified your topic, you should then proceed to look into the related theories that may help to address or explain the phenomenon. When deciding on your topic, it is always good to be more specific than to have a general theme as it would help to narrow down areas that you should look into.