How Social Capital and Human Capital Influence the Job Tenure of a Refugee
Background and Purpose: This study aims to examine how social and human capital possessed by North Korean refugees affects their job tenure in South Korea. With a recent influx of North Korean refugees into South Korea, researchers and policy makers have paid close attention to the social and economic integration of North Koreans. Although employment opportunities have often been provided to North Korean refugees after the completion of social settlement training provided by the South Korea government, high employment turnover rates, due mostly to transitions from higher to lower quality jobs, highlight the importance of helping North Korean refugees maintain higher quality forms of employment. However, little is known about factors that play a role in determining whether North Korean refugees will maintain employment. To fill this gap, this study examines the extent to which the human and social capital possessed by North Korean refugees affects their ability to maintain employment in South Korea.
Method: Given that information about North Korean refugees is considered confidential in South Korea, this study employed convenience sampling in cooperation with the Red Cross, which is the only organization that can officially provide social services to North Korean refugees. Data on 159 North Korean refugees were collected through questionnaires completed by participants in September and October of 2008. Multiple regression was used to estimate a model in which duration of employment served as the dependent variable. The primary independent variables were human capital, which was measured both by level of educational attainment and job training experience, and social capital, which was measured by a modified General Social Capital Scale with two sub-scales of trust and network. A set of demographic control variables were also included in the model.
Results: We found that North Korean refugees were more likely to remain in a job, not only when they had higher levels of education in North Korea but also when they obtained more formal education in South Korea. Conversely, job training experience in South Korea was not found to have a significant effect on job duration. With regard to social capital, higher levels of trust and safety in the work place were associated with remaining in the same job for a longer duration. However, neither participation in the local community nor in North Korean Refugee self-support groups were associated with employment maintenance.
Conclusions and Implications: This study reveals that human capital is an important factor in promoting job maintenance among North Korean refugees, which may in turn lead to more successful integration into South Korean society. The fact that job training had no effect on employment maintenance suggests that it would be better to first provide North Korean refugees with an opportunity to obtain formal education in South Korea rather than providing specific job skills. In addition, this study highlights the importance of designing interventions to teach social skills to North Korean refugees in order to promote a trustful relationship with their South Korean colleagues in the work place.