Janitorial Studies in South Korea

Economist Richard Vedder and co-authors once joked:

While people will become increasingly aware that a bachelor’s degree is no longer a very assured ticket to success, more and more people will try to get a competitive edge in the labor market by obtaining master’s or even doctoral degrees to demonstrate competence. We jokingly predict that colleges will offer a master’s degree in Janitorial Studies within a decade or two and anyone seeking employment as a janitor will discover no one will hire unless proof of possession of such a degree is presented.

At least by some measures, South Korea now leads the world in college completion.  What’s happening to its job market?  Well, a South Korean reader just sent me this story.

Many of the applicants seeking to become Seoul janitors have college degrees, Eunpyeong-gu district office said Thursday.

A total of 66 people applied for four janitor positions in the district, marking a competition rate of 16.5 to 1.

Over one-third of the applicants were college graduates, and one candidate had worked as a military captain before.


Of the four successful applicants, three had obtained a university diploma and one held a degree from a community college.

The four applicants will begin work next month.

Yes, this is very likely an outlier.  But still!

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Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He is the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, named “the best political book of the year” by the New York Times, and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN.

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