Labour Market Dualisation and Social Protection in South Korea: Searching for a New Social Contract and Growth Model

There is little doubt that South Korea needs to develop a new social contract as a matter of urgency. Labour market dualisation and the rise of insecurity have undermined the social fabric of the country in the absence of robust social protection mechanisms that could mitigate job insecurity and corresponding anxiety. Elected on a platform of economic and social justice, the centre-left Moon Jae-in government (2017–2022) started with an ambitious agenda of labour market and unemployment protection reforms, informed by an aspiration to establish an inclusive/wage-led growth model instead of the country’s divisive export-oriented growth strategy, which relies on the exploitation of irregular workers for its economic success. We assess labour market dualisation and recent reform by the Moon Jae-in administration, before considering alternative policy recommendations to address the social polarisation in Korean society.