Written by Álvaro Zarzoso Hernández

1. Introduction

The European Union -as the whole world- is facing a challenging situation due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has harmed the economic activity and therefore, employment. One of the age groups most affected by the current panorama is the young people (15-24), many of which have experienced their second economic crisis before being inserted into the labor market and have been forced to postpone the living plans again.

However, the pandemic should not move the focus off a more relevant threat: climate change. So far, the EU seems to have been able to understand this situation and is trying to find the way out of the health crisis through a greening and ecological transition. It recently launched European Green Deal, which sees in the green transition an opportunity to expand sustainable and job-intensive economic activity. That is, the greening process, in all of its fields (e.g. climate, clean energy, circular economy, sustainable and smart mobility) will bring new activities and jobs (Sergi et al., 2020), which eventually would mean a way to link both the fight against climate change and the COVID-19 recovery plans.

When it comes to green employment, for most of those new jobs, pro-active re-skilling and upskilling programs will be needed, not only for the transition of the workforce from declining sectors to growing sectors, but also for young people to acquire the necessary skills to adapt to the new processes. Also, other policies that favor the creation of employment will be appreciated from both companies and youth (Aceleanu et al., 2015).

Young people, due to their high environmental awareness, skills and motivation, might

be a crucial driving force for the ecological transition. In that sense, governments and policy makers should identify which policies would favor (or not) the employment in sustainable sectors between youth.

This short paper aims to identify policies and best practices to engage youth employment into the green transition. For that aim, a comparison between the Green Roadmaps of the European Union and South Korea (EU Green Deal vs The Korean New Deal) in terms of young employment are compared. After this short introduction, Section 2 presents the methodological comparison and in Section 3 different conclusions and policies are suggested.

2. Methodology: Comparative analysis.


The incidence of the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has affected EU Member States and South Korea differently. While South Korea has emerged as one the best international examples of how to handle the virus and consequently gained the admiration of the international community, Europe has been hit by the virus with both terrible economic (IMF, 2020) and social consequences (WHO, 2020).   According to OECD forecasts, the GDP in the European Union will decrease 9,1% while in Korea only 1,2% (OECD, 2020).

The economic impact of the pandemic has revealed, among others, two structural concerns in the economies of European countries and Korea.

First, according to the data from Eurostat (2020) and KOSTAT (2020) for October 2020, the fact that youthunemployment remains high in both European Union (17,5%) and Korea (8,4%).

Second, the need for an ecological transition. To this concern, however, the European Union starts from a much-advanced point, for example, in terms of use of renewable energies. The 19,7% of the energy consumed in the European Union comes from renewable energy while in Korea the share is only 7% (IEA, 2020).

Both EU and Korea have recently launched (2019-2020) their roadmap for the transition to a green economy and have seen in it a driver for economic growth, a gateway from COVID and a boost to employment.

For those reasons, it is interesting to analyze and compare how both countries are dealing with youth unemployment and the greening process.


The European Green Deal takes a macro-approach with general guidelines, which serve as a framework for the member countries. It is an initial roadmap of the key policies and measures needed to achieve the ecological transition, and it is meant to be updated as needs evolve and the policy responses are formulated (European Commission, 2019).

In relation to the labor market, it only makes the following references:

– The transition is an opportunity to expand sustainable and job-intensive economic activity. (2.1.3)

– The renovation wave of public and private buildings into green and energy-efficient buildings will boost the construction sector and it is an opportunity to support SMEs and local jobs (2.1.4)

– To protect the citizens and workers most vulnerable to the transition, providing access to re-skilling programs, jobs in new economic sectors, or energy-efficient housing. (2.2.1)

– The Skills Agenda and the Youth Guarantee will be updated to enhance employability in the green economy (2.2.4).

The European Green Deal is still an initial roadmap as it is in a very first stage and the Member States are the one who must properly implement policies. For that reason, more detailed measures that act as a framework for Member States are missing. In that sense, one can look at what the Korean New Deal proposes regarding (young) employment.


The Korean New Deal includes more references to the labor market and offers a priori more support to society to be engaged with the ecological transition.  Against the changing economic structure, the Korean government aims to invest in human resources to build talent and provide employment support for new types of jobs, to reduce the digital gap and to help companies to hire people. The Korean Roadmap looks at a Green and Digital transition at the same time (MOEF, 2020).

Without seeking to be exhaustive, the main points have been underlined:

  • Helping new employees in the labor market and those looking for new positions:
    • A subsidy on labor costs will be provided to businesses for the employment of young employees in IT-related fields (up to 1,800,000 won -around 1.330 euros- for up to six months) and a short-term internship program for young employees (up to 800,000 -around 590 euros- won for up to six months).
    • Job matching support will also be provided to connect young graduates from science and engineering backgrounds to SMEs and enterprises of middle standing.
  • Innovating working environment and industrial safety standards:
    • Improvements will be made to the working environment through ways such as regular technical training to prevent industrial accidents; the recruitment of dedicated staff to ensure a safe working environment; and the elimination of dust and noise.
  • Training digital and green talents:
  • With the aim to train 100,000 individuals on AI and software, two additional research organizations will be selected under the Korea Initiative for fostering University of Research and Innovation (KIURI), and support will be provided to 40 universities to focus on software knowledge.
  • To support the training of 20,000 individuals in green-integrated fields, specialized graduate schools in the fields of climate change and green engineering, and job-training in the environmental industry will be provided.
  • Restructuring the job-training system to be future-oriented:
  • With the aim to nurture 180,000 individuals for future-oriented industries, training will be provided through businesses, universities and institutions for innovation.
  • Training on digital integration will be supported for 40,000 trainees in 2021 and 50,000 trainees a year from 2022, and a curriculum that integrates new technologies for 10,000 university students will be established in 40 campuses.
  • Digitally based training platforms will be provided to SMEs and training institutions by granting them access to local co-training centers, which had previously been available for affiliated businesses.

3. Conclusions and Policy Suggestions.

From the brief comparison between the two Roadmaps),  some conclusions and a series of policy suggestions can be humbly  drawn.

  1. The Korean Roadmap, since it might be in a more advanced phase and since it is elaborated by a national government, and not a supranational entity like the European Union, includes a series of more specific measures. The European Union and its member countries could take as an example some of these specific measures and programs.
  2. It is necessary to carry out a more holistic and complete vision of the Green Transition and link it to other fields. Growth must not only be green, it must also be digital and of course, it should include young people (Picatoste et al., 2018). As a global tech leader, Korea has managed to reflect this concern in its roadmap while EU Members States could learn from it.
  3. While skilling programs are important and needed to better close the gap between schools / universities and the industry; it is also essential to promote the creation of employment through helping businesses and fostering entrepreneurship (Sulich and Rutkowska, 2020).


Aceleanu, M. I., Serban, A. C., & Burghelea, C. (2015). “Greening” the Youth Employment—A Chance for Sustainable Development. Sustainability7(3), 2623-2643.

European Commission (2019). The European Green Deal. Retrieved from: https://www.kowi.de/Portaldata/2/Resources/fp/2019-com-european-green-deal-communication.pdf

Eurostat (2020). Youth Unemployment Stats. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Unemployment_statistics#Youth_unemployment

IEA (2020). International Energy Agency. Data and Stats. Retrieved from: https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics?country=WORLD&fuel=Energy%20supply&indicator=TPESbySource

IMF (2020). International Monetary Fund. World Economic Outlook, October 2020: A long and difficult ascent. Retrieved from: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/09/30/world-economic-outlook-october-2020

Kostat (2020) Youth Unempolyment Stats. Retrieved from: http://kostat.go.kr/portal/eng/index.action

MOEF (2020). Ministry of Economy and Finance of Korea. The Korean New Deal. Retrieved from: https://english.moef.go.kr/pc/selectTbPressCenterDtl.do?boardCd=N0001&seq=4948#fn_download

OECD (2020). Economic Outlook. Retrieved from: https://www.oecd.org/economic-outlook/

Picatoste, J., Pérez-Ortiz, L., & Ruesga-Benito, S. M. (2018). A new educational pattern in response to new technologies and sustainable development. Enlightening ICT skills for youth employability in the European Union. Telematics and Informatics35(4), 1031-1038.

Sergi, B. S., Arkoh, P., Batta, C., Drissi, R., Licastro, A., & Rodà, A. (2020). Greening the economy: EU membership as a driver for change in south-east Europe. SEER Journal for Labour and Social Affairs in Eastern Europe22(2), 145-180.

Sulich, A., & Rutkowska, M. (2020). Green jobs, definitional issues, and the employment of young people: An analysis of three European Union countries. Journal of EnvironmentalManagement262, 110314.

WHO (2020). World Health Organization. WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard. Retrieved from: https://covid19.who.int/

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