4. Strengthening stakeholder engagement in adult learning in Korea

Effective stakeholder engagement is essential to support Korea’s performance in adult learning. Policy makers dealing with complex policy choices in adult learning need and benefit from the expertise and knowledge of stakeholders. Engaging stakeholders enhances the political legitimacy of policy making in adult learning, which is important as complex policy decisions often involve a number of trade-offs and political costs. This is especially the case for adult learning policy, which is more complex than many other policy areas as it is located at the intersection of education, labour market, industrial and other policy domains (OECD, 2019[1]). Given that disadvantaged groups in particular have been adversely affected by the social and economic ramifications of COVID-19, targeted stakeholder engagement efforts are needed to ensure that recovery policies, such as those dealing with adult learning, are sufficiently tailored to the specific needs of such disadvantaged groups (OECD, 2020[2]).

Stakeholders are defined in this report as “parties that have an interest or stake in adult learning”. They include all individuals, groups and organisations participating in, directly influenced by or with an interest in adult learning policy making (OECD, 2015[3]). Stakeholder engagement is defined as the “practice of involving members of the public in the process of policy making” (OECD, 2015[3]). Stakeholders should be given the opportunity to play a role throughout the entire policy cycle, which requires sufficient resources such as funding, venues and staff. Undertaking stakeholder engagement continuously and sustainably builds mutual trust and allows all parties involved to achieve a common goal (OECD, 2019[1]).

This chapter provides an overview of Korea’s current arrangements and explores two key opportunities for improving stakeholder engagement in adult learning: 1) raising awareness of, and capacity for, effective stakeholder engagement; and 2) involving stakeholders effectively in the adult learning policy-making process. For each opportunity, the available data are analysed, relevant national and international policies and practices are discussed, and policy recommendations are provided.

The following section provides an overview of Korea’s stakeholder engagement, the main adult learning stakeholder groups, including those represented by formal organisations and those not well represented (e.g. disadvantaged groups), as well as the main stakeholder engagement bodies.

In Korea’s policy-making process, the government has historically played a dominant role, while stakeholders have had more limited roles. From 1962 to 1987, the authoritarian government in Korea exerted control over policies to achieve rapid economic growth. Without much input from stakeholders, the government set the goals and policies for economic development, determined the allocation of resources, and fostered the growth of business conglomerates (chaebols) that still dominate Korea’s economic structure. In order to provide cheap and strike-free labour to fuel this growth, the government controlled unions and prohibited collective action and strikes, while employers unilaterally set wages and conditions (Lee, 2011[4]). As the government was in control of labour relations, employers’ associations were not needed to participate in collective bargaining processes and played only a passive representational role. This undermined the role of key stakeholders, such as unions and employers, and minimised their influence in the policy-making process (Jun and Sheldon, 2006[5]).

Since the transition to a democracy in 1987, the government granted autonomy to unions and, with the unions’ increased role in determining workplace management issues, employers’ associations also mobilised and became more active. The membership and density of unions and employers’ associations then grew quickly and have increasingly participated in the newly created stakeholder engagement bodies (see further below), which have led to some significant agreements between the government and stakeholders on issues such as labour reform (e.g. the Social Pact in 1998) (Lee, 2019[6]).

However, significant challenges in stakeholder engagement remain. Due to the difficulties of resolving disagreements and deadlocks in existing stakeholder engagement bodies, a large number of strikes continue to occur in Korea (in 2019, there were 141 strikes in Korea compared to 119 on average across the OECD) (ILO, 2020[7]). Some stakeholder organisations have been frustrated and disillusioned with the engagement process, which remains dominated by the government, and have decided to either not join or to temporarily withdraw from formal engagement bodies, which undermines their effectiveness (Lee, 2019[6]). This has been the case with the Korean Employers’ Federation in the Korea Tripartite Commission and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions in the Economic, Social and Labour Council. Union and employer organisation density levels still remain among the lowest across the OECD, which means that a significant share of workers and employers are not well represented by these organisations (OECD, 2020[8]).

In comparison to other OECD countries, Korea falls below the OECD average in stakeholder engagement. According to the Bertelsmann Foundation’s 2018 Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI), Korea is below the OECD average on the dimensions of societal consultation, voicing opinion to officials and voter turnout (Figure 4.1) (Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2018[9]). The one dimension where Korea performs above the OECD average is policy knowledge. While this dimension is an important aspect for effective stakeholder engagement, it needs to be complemented by the other three dimensions in order for effective stakeholder engagement to occur.

Korea’s approach to stakeholder engagement is closest to a state corporatism approach (Table 4.1), which is similar to other East Asian countries. In such an approach, the government has the leading role in the design and implementation of most policies, and mobilises stakeholders to a large extent to support these policies. A limited number of stakeholder groups represented by formal stakeholder organisations (e.g. unions, employers’ associations) are invited to participate in formal engagement bodies, through which the government collects feedback on policies (OECD/ILO, 2017[10]). The advantage of this approach in Korea is that the government has been pursue the quick implementation of policy priorities. The challenges have been designing policies that sufficiently address the unique circumstances of local skills needs and securing enough support from stakeholders to effectively implement policies.

In other OECD countries, stakeholders play a more active role in the policy-making process. For example, in Germanic and Scandinavian countries, a social corporatist approach is common, whereby stakeholders are involved throughout the policy cycle, which generates commitment for implementation. These countries have a long history of formal engagement bodies convening a broad range of stakeholders, ensuring that all stakeholders are able to participate on a level playing field, and making joint policy decisions. Another common approach among Anglo-Saxon countries is the pluralism approach, whereby the government allows stakeholders to freely compete with each other for influence in the policy-making process, which means that the stakeholders with the largest support and legitimacy exert the most influence in the policy-making process (OECD, 2020[11]).

Some stakeholder groups in Korea are well represented in policy making for adult learning through formal stakeholder organisations, while others are less well represented formally.

The most significant formal stakeholder organisations are employers’ associations and unions. The Federation of Korean Industries represents large conglomerates, such as Samsung and Hyundai. The Korean Employers’ Federation represents large and small employers. Small and medium-sized employers are also represented by the Korean Federation of Small and Medium-sized Businesses. The Korea International Trade Association represents employers engaging in international trade. The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry represents employers of all sizes and sectors. The most important trade unions are the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (Lee, 2019[6]).

Another group of stakeholders are adult learning provider organisations, which can be further broken down into not-for-profit or for-profit formal education institutions, and not-for-profit or for-profit non-formal education institutions (Table 4.2). Given that many of these adult learning provider organisations are directly under the control of, or accountable to, the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Employment and Labour, their interests are typically represented by the government.

Other stakeholder groups exist that are not well represented by any of the abovementioned formal organisations, and which are among the most disadvantaged in terms of their participation in adult learning. In particular, women, older adults, adults with lower levels of education and non-regular workers have lower levels of participation in adult learning, such as labour market relevant non-formal education (Figure 4.2). In the current COVID-19 crisis, women in general, and mothers in particular, have had relatively less time to acquire new skills for, and effectively participate in, remote working due to their additional care responsibilities. Similarly, older adults and adults with lower levels of education, many of whom are working in small businesses, have struggled to acquire the necessary digital skills to effectively use online platforms and other digital tools to telework (OECD, 2020[2]).

Many women, older adults and adults with lower levels of education are also non-regular workers. In the current COVID-19 context, non-regular workers have been more likely to lose their job than regular workers, and have less access to adult learning opportunities to support their transition to other jobs (OECD, 2020[2]). Not being able to effectively engage non-regular workers through a formal stakeholder organisation has been a particular concern for policy makers, as they represent a significant share (around 34%) of the workforce (KOSIS, 2020[14]).

In Korea, non-regular workers are made up of three groups, which sometimes overlap: 1) non-permanent workers, including those working on a temporary or fixed-term basis; 2) part-time workers, including those with 35 or fewer regular working hours per week; and 3) non-typical workers, including daily workers, contractors (either engaged for a specific task or paid on commission), temporary work agency workers, domestic workers, and other such categories of workers with only weak ties to their employer (OECD, 2018[16]). These people frequently work in industries engaged in office support services, cleaning services, tourism, domestic service, agriculture and fishing, among others (KOSIS, 2020[14]).

There have been a number of challenges that have made it difficult for non-regular workers to represent themselves in formal organisations. Existing unions have mostly represented the interests of regular workers, while non-regular workers have historically either been excluded or have chosen not to join these unions due to conflicting interests and priorities over issues such as wages, working conditions and job stability. Non-regular workers have thus created their own unions in specific sectors (e.g. education, railway, healthcare, construction, entertainment) and for specific subgroups (e.g. the Korean Women’s Trade Union, the Senior Hope Union) (Lee, 2019[6]). These unions are often small, have limited financial resources and have been reluctant to join larger union organisations (such as the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions) as they fear that their voices will not be sufficiently represented. Given that only the largest organisations are participating in most stakeholder engagement bodies, the interests of smaller and less well-organised stakeholder groups, such as those for non-regular workers, have not been well represented.

In Korea, there are a number of formal bodies through which the government engages stakeholders in adult learning. These include the Economic, Social and Labour Council, industrial skills councils, regional skills council, sectoral human development councils, and local labour and management committees (Table 4.3), all of which fulfil different roles and face different challenges, which are further discussed in Opportunity 2 in this chapter. These stakeholder engagement bodies typically engage the more established large stakeholder organisations (e.g. union federations and employer associations).

The current administration in Korea has placed great emphasis on stakeholder engagement. One significant initiative in 2018 was to reform the Economic, Social and Labour Council, which has been one of the most important tripartite bodies since 1997, and enlarge the membership to also include representatives of disadvantaged groups (e.g. non-regular workers and women). However, due to the fragmented and large number of small organisations representing disadvantaged groups, as well the limited number of membership places in the council, it has been challenging to identify the main organisations that would most effectively represent the collective interests of a disadvantaged group (see Opportunity 1). The organisations that ended up representing the interests of disadvantaged groups in the council did not enjoy a strong base of support from the groups they were supposed to represent, and thus had lower levels of legitimacy and reduced bargaining power relative to the other stakeholder organisations (Korea, 2019[17]). This underscores the need to support disadvantaged groups to organise and represent themselves better so that they can more effectively participate in formal stakeholder engagement processes.

This chapter presents two opportunities for strengthening stakeholder engagement. Opportunity 1 examines how awareness of the importance of engagement and the capacity for engaging could be raised for both government officials and stakeholders. Opportunity 2 explores how to involve stakeholders effectively in the adult learning policy-making process through expanding opportunities for stakeholders to provide input (e.g. participatory budget processes, formal partnerships), as well as improving the effectiveness of stakeholder engagement bodies.

Korea can strengthen stakeholder engagement by:

  1. 1. Raising the awareness of, and capacity for, effective stakeholder engagement.

  2. 2. Involving stakeholders effectively in the adult learning policy making process.

This section provides an overview of engagement arrangements between government and stakeholders, and examines how such engagement could be made more effective by raising awareness of, and building capacity for, engagement among government officials and stakeholders. Relevant country examples and specific recommendations are also presented.

It is critical to raise awareness among government officials about the importance of stakeholder engagement and which stakeholders to engage. Discussions with government representatives in Korea emphasised that awareness of the importance of engaging stakeholders in adult learning policies needs to be raised (Korea, 2019[17]). While responsible government officials may understand the general benefits of stakeholder engagement, such as accountability, responsiveness and legitimacy, they are hesitant to engage in such activities due to the potential risks, such as delays in policy implementation and higher administrative burdens (OECD, 2009[18]). Some may also wish to avoid conflicts, in particular when stakeholders do not share a common goal and when the debate is about distributional issues affecting resources (“who gets what from whom?”). When stakeholder engagement does not take place, this adversely affects policy implementation, with stakeholders not supporting government decisions (OECD, 2020[11]). Raising awareness among government officials of the need to engage stakeholders and how to engage them early in the policy design process increases the likelihood of adult learning policies being successfully implemented.

A particular challenge for government officials in Korea is identifying the relevant stakeholders to engage. Stakeholders in Korea are not as well organised as those in other OECD countries. For example, trade union and employer organisation density levels are among the lowest across the OECD (Figure 4.3). A low density level means that the share of employees or employers represented by these organisations is low. Thus, while the Korean government does engage with the official unions and employer organisations, there are still many employees and employers who are not members of these organisations and whose voices are therefore not represented in formal engagement bodies. In addition, other disadvantaged stakeholders are not well represented generally in formal organisations, such as women, older individuals, individuals with lower levels of education and non-regular workers (see also Chapter 5). This makes it challenging for the government to identify how and with whom to engage.

A thorough stakeholder mapping exercise could help to identify key stakeholders. Through such a process, Korea can identify stakeholders who have not been sufficiently engaged, but should be based on attributes such as extent of concern for a specific policy, how much they have at stake, and how much influence they would have in the success of the policy (Bryson, 1995[20]; Mitchell, Agle and Wood, 1997[21]; Jeston and Nelis, 2008[22]). In the mapping process it is important to pay particular attention to disadvantaged stakeholders who are crucial for the success of a policy. This mapping exercise can prioritise which key stakeholders to engage based on their attributes (mentioned above) and an assessment of how to target engagement efforts in the most effective way. Some examples are featured in Annex 4.A. The mapping exercise can also analyse the relationships between stakeholders and identify potential areas of disagreement between the government and stakeholders, as well as between stakeholders themselves, so that government officials can anticipate and prepare for such challenges by, for example, analysing the different positions actors are likely to take, examining the relationships between the different actors, and identifying options for a compromise (Moura and Teixeira, 2010[23]). The mapping exercise should also identify the roles of stakeholders during different stages of the policy cycle, such as policy design, implementation and evaluation. The Australian government’s toolkit for stakeholder engagement starts with a mapping exercise to identify the right groups to engage at a particular stage of the policy cycle, as well as the composition of target groups. It also delineates the risk of not including these groups (Box 4.2).

Another challenge for government stakeholder engagement efforts is the lack of sufficient and relevant training to strengthen the engagement capacities of government officials. Specific capacities for effective stakeholder engagement include negotiation skills, communication and presentation skills, and monitoring and evaluation skills (OECD, 2016[24]). In a survey of government officials, the policy measure identified as most important for raising the capacities of government officials was the development and provision of educational training programmes (Figure 4.4). While all Korean government officials receive initial training when they first start in their positions, this training typically covers their general responsibilities and is not sufficiently tailored to equip them with the skills necessary to effectively fulfil their broader roles and responsibilities, such as the engagement of stakeholders in the development and implementation of adult learning policies (see also Chapter 3). During the OECD mission, representatives in Korea emphasised the specific need for educational training programmes to teach government officials how to reach out to stakeholders, in particular those who are disadvantaged.

Some national good practices do exist regarding the training of government officials in stakeholder engagement, which may be worth expanding further. For example, within the National Institute for Lifelong Education, government officials receive training specifically on reaching out to stakeholders in addition to their initial training. The Seoul Metropolitan City Government also provides training on stakeholder engagement through its “Collaborative Governance School”, and publishes relevant textbooks (Box 4.1). Courses provided by the school cover topics such as understanding the concept of collaborative governance, communication skills and conflict management. They aim to provide information on other good examples of collective governance and to develop the necessary skills for developing and managing public-private partnerships.

While such training offers are promising, more specialised training and support is needed to engage disadvantaged stakeholder groups that currently have low levels of representation, such as non-regular workers (see Chapter 5), women and youth. Such specialised training should cover, for example, how to tailor the language and format (e.g. print material, online material, social media) of communications to the specific profile and needs of disadvantaged stakeholder groups. Government officials should also be trained in how to effectively facilitate face-to-face meetings such as workshops, town hall meetings and advisory groups in an inclusive way to support the participation of disadvantaged stakeholders. In Finland, the government has taken steps to improve dialogue between the government and stakeholders through the training of government officials to communicate effectively with stakeholders, including those disadvantaged, by using plain language and visualisations, describing clear government structures and processes, and making official information easy to find (Box 4.2).

Government officials also need training to review and assess stakeholder proposals. During the OECD mission, representatives in Korea highlighted that the training government officials receive should raise their capacities to evaluate stakeholder proposals based on available evidence. Otherwise, there is a risk that government officials, especially when they are new to a position and policy domain, adopt proposals submitted by the most vocal stakeholders, without an evidence-based evaluation of the proposal’s merits. This process could thus be at risk of being unduly influenced by special interest groups (OECD, 2009[18]). In Korea, this risk is particularly prominent due to the large group of disadvantaged stakeholders not represented by existing formal stakeholder organisations (i.e. trade unions, employers’ associations).

Government officials, therefore, need to be trained to develop and use consistent and transparent indicators when evaluating stakeholders’ proposals so that all proposals can be assessed in the same merit-based manner. The indicators used for such evaluations should be publicly available. Government officials should be trained in how to use the indicators and what information to collect from stakeholders to assess their proposals.

In Korea, some promising examples of developing and using indicators for reviewing stakeholder proposals exist. For example, in the Seoul Metropolitan City policy forum, citizens made 55 project proposals to the mayor (Box 4.1). The city government officials then reviewed and selected 35 projects in collaboration with stakeholders, using 5 transparent indicators of feasibility, responsibility, effectiveness, the extent of public-private partnership and a cost-benefit evaluation. The budget for implementing the 35 projects amounted to approximately USD 7.4 million and included two adult learning programmes (Seoul City, 2017[26]). Government officials responsible for assessing stakeholder proposals should be trained to develop indicators to use for assessments so that a merit-based selection process gives all stakeholders, including those disadvantaged, the same opportunities to have their proposals considered. Given that disadvantaged stakeholders are likely to have limited ability to submit well-developed policy proposals, their capacity in this regard should be raised (see next section).

More needs to be done to raise awareness among stakeholders about the importance of their participation in the development and implementation of adult learning policies. For trade unions such as the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the topic of adult learning has a relatively low priority compared to issues such as wage and working conditions. Some experts argue that this phenomenon is due to Korea having a relatively small safety net and a relatively large share of workers for whom the minimum wage is binding, in comparison with other OECD countries (ESLC, 2018[31]). Similarly, for many employers in Korea, especially SMEs, adult learning for their employees is often considered an expense, not an investment, regardless of the significant benefits. Employers are concerned that employees might move to another company for higher wages after acquiring new skills (KRIVET, 2018[32]). Due to this situation, in the labour-management council meetings, which bring together representatives from labour and employers to discuss a variety of issues within the firm, the topic of worker training and education is relatively low on the agenda (Figure 4.5). Awareness-raising efforts are needed to help stakeholders understand the benefits of adult learning for both employees and employers, and how this can lead to better outcomes (e.g. higher productivity, work satisfaction). At the same time, stakeholders need to be made aware that their participation in the process of developing and implementing adult learning polices is important.

Stakeholders’ interest in participating in the adult learning policy-making process is low, partly due to a lack of awareness about how to engage with government. Based on discussions with Korean representatives during the OECD mission, stakeholders in adult learning face barriers or lack expertise in how to engage effectively with government. A lack of understanding of the nature and importance of adult learning policy making and how to participate effectively in the process is common (OECD, 2015[3]). Besides lobbyists, few stakeholders know all the details of how the government works, how the adult learning policy-making process is organised, and how and where to get involved. In adult learning in Korea, the government landscape is particularly complex (see Chapters 2 and 3). Stakeholder groups that are not well organised (Table 4.2), such as those representing women, youth and non-regular workers, face particular hurdles in knowing how to participate in the political process. This highlights the need to raise awareness about how to engage and how to enhance their capacity to engage (OECD, 2009[18]). Training could allow stakeholders to better understand the nature and importance of adult learning policy making (and policy making more generally), and how to participate effectively in the process. Such training could cover details of how the government works, how the adult learning policy-making process is organised and how to get involved.

Unions need to increase their coverage to engage effectively with government. In Korea, the majority of unions are still enterprise based and bargain at the firm level, instead of bargaining on behalf of all employees across enterprises (Lee, 2011[4]). The unions of large companies are often reluctant to participate in political processes and prefer to represent mostly internal company issues during negotiations. The organisation of unions differs across sectors, with relatively strong levels of union organisation in the textile sector, followed by the chemical, metal and other heavy industries. In the case of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, some internal affiliates have an even stronger voice than the umbrella organisation and take the lead in decision-making processes, which hampers the ability of the national leadership to co-ordinate with, and effectively meet the needs of, all of their affiliates (Korea Labor Institute, 2013[34]). These issues reduce the unions’ bargaining power, leverage and credibility in negotiations with government and other stakeholders. In addition, disadvantaged workers, such as those in non-regular work arrangements, often do not have a formal organisation that effectively represents their views, and are reluctant to join existing unions as they do not see them as sufficiently addressing their interests.

The decreasing membership of unions is a common challenge across the OECD, as more employees are choosing not to join a union and are working in more non-regular forms of employment. Due to these challenges, some unions have merged or applied new recruitment and internal organisation strategies. In Austria (Box 4.4), some unions have combined and introduced representational groups (e.g. employees in micro companies, self-employed) to raise their overall numbers and increase their influence. In the United Kingdom, the government provided funding to unions to enhance their capacity and help them adapt to the changing labour market and new forms of employment (Box 4.4).

Employers’ associations need to co-ordinate better internally and with one another to engage more effectively with government. In Korea, there are several national employers’ associations. The Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the oldest and largest association with numerous regional chambers and represents companies of all sizes and sectors. The Federation of Korean Industries represents the large conglomerates (chaebols). The Korean Employers’ Federation is the main employer association dealing with labour employment and industrial relations and represents large and small companies (Cooke and Jiang, 2017[35]). Other smaller employers’ associations include the Korea International Trade Association and the Korean Federation of Small and Medium-sized Businesses. A common challenge for all these employers’ associations is the ability to co-ordinate internally and position themselves with one clear voice. For example, while the national representation may take one position, the affiliate companies at the sectoral and regional levels may take other positions and adopt different industrial relations strategies (Baccaro and Lee, 2003[36]). This weakens the overall legitimacy and bargaining power of the national representation.

The capacity of stakeholders to participate in evidence-based dialogue with government needs to be raised. In a survey of stakeholders in Korea, most responders highlighted the importance of having sufficient expertise and expert knowledge among stakeholders to participate constructively in an evidence-based dialogue with government (Figure 4.6). During the OECD missions to Korea, many participants mentioned that a common challenge of engaging stakeholders was the fact that they tend to propose adult learning policy ideas that reflect only their special interests and that they are not sufficiently informed by the available evidence about the challenges and efficacy of proposed solutions (Korea, 2019[17]). Without a common understanding between the government and stakeholders about how to interpret the available evidence, a dialogue between the two parties about the policy challenges and potential solutions becomes more difficult. Stakeholders expressed that discussions can become very political, and that it is easier for the most vocal and powerful participants to dominate the discussions and decision-making process, even if the policy solutions they present are not evidence based (Korea, 2019[17]).

The capacity of stakeholders to participate effectively in engagement processes could be raised by internal research units. While most unions and employers’ associations have research units (Table 4.4), they are relatively small in scale, heavily reliant on government funding, and are often driven by the political views of their leadership (Korea Labor Institute, 2013[34]). Having a better resourced and independent research unit within stakeholder organisations would allow stakeholders to participate in policy negotiations with more evidence-based ideas (Korea, 2019[17]). While government organisations such as the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET), the Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI) and other research institutes responsible to the prime minister play a mediating role between the government and stakeholders, as well as provide research to inform discussions between the government and stakeholders, their role could be complemented by the stronger research capacity of individual stakeholder organisations. Research units in such organisations could collect data from the constituencies they represent and analyse and disseminate these data. Such units could consider the implications of long-term challenges and identify policy options (Box 4.3). The research units will need access to relevant skills data to undertake such tasks. Data from various ministries should be linked (Chapter 2) to enable stakeholders to properly analyse the changing skills needs in the local context and use the information as a base for their proposals. Given that the Employment Insurance Fund is co-funded by employees and employers and used to finance a variety of adult learning programmes (OECD, 2018[37]) (see also Chapter 5), it could potentially also be used to financially support internal research units in unions and employers’ associations, and thus enable them to more effectively inform adult learning policies.

In some OECD countries, such as France, stakeholders including employers’ organisations, unions and political parties have their own well-resourced and independent research units (sometimes called occupations and skills observatories) that analyse data and regularly publish reports (Box 4.4). The majority of observatories are embedded in and financially supported by either employers’ associations or government bodies that manage employer training levies. The observatories allow stakeholders to participate in public debates with evidence-based arguments and provide a constructive framework to engage with proposals.

This section provides an overview of how stakeholders participate in the adult learning policy-making process, and how such involvement could become more effective by expanding opportunities for stakeholders to provide input into policy making, as well as by improving the effectiveness of stakeholder engagement bodies. Relevant country examples and specific recommendations are also presented.

The government needs to expand opportunities for stakeholders to provide input into policy making, particularly at the subnational level. The relatively centralised decision-making process for adult learning policy in Korea has often struggled to effectively meet subnational needs (Korea, 2019[17]). Adult learning needs differ significantly across regions and municipalities (see Chapter 3). Encouraging subnational stakeholders to constructively contribute to the design and implementation of adult learning helps to cultivate trust at the subnational level, resulting in better outcomes.

The government should solicit stakeholder feedback and input throughout the entire policy-making process. In a survey of Korean stakeholders, respondents were asked whether they had experience in expressing their opinions on government policy issues or projects. Only 23% of respondents said that they had such experience, which was usually through online participation (74%) followed by other forms of in person participation such as citizen panels, forums and open meetings (Figure 4.7).

The Korean government has experience of engaging stakeholders through a variety of initiatives. For example, since 2013 a community participation mobile application (app) called “mVoting” has allowed citizens in Seoul to propose policy solutions at any time, once they have downloaded the app. Efforts are currently underway to use this app for actual policy decisions. The app has been downloaded at least 100 000 times on Google Play and approximately 280 000 times on the App Store. As of June 2016, more than 1.1 million users had voted in the app. At least 4 400 proposals and voting agendas have been posted – 88% of which came from citizens and 12% from officials. At least 181 proposals have turned into actual Seoul City policies. The government has also established civic participatory service design teams composed of stakeholders, government officials and experts. Each team consists of about 8 to 15 members who work together for about three to four months conducting field studies, literature reviews, and research and brainstorming to propose policy solutions. National, regional and local governments have organised more than 200 teams, which have submitted policy proposals in diverse areas such as education, social welfare, public health, transport, industry, housing and finance (OECD, 2016[42]) .These different initiatives are promising and should be expanded to make them more readily available across the country.

Stakeholder engagement mechanisms such as these should ensure that disadvantaged stakeholders, who are less vocal and more passive, are heard as much as more outspoken and active stakeholders. Disadvantaged stakeholders often do not use these online platforms or participate in other types of engagement activities. They may be more passive and lack of awareness of these engagement forms, and may not have sufficient capacity to participate.

In order to involve stakeholders more in the policy-making process, including those who are disadvantaged, Korea could consider the example of the Citizens Forum in Belgium. This forum brings together stakeholders representing different perspectives to deliberate on a particular policy issue, learn from each other and develop innovative policy solutions. To ensure the broad participation of stakeholders, the forum organises a G1 000 summit that convenes 1 000 randomly selected residents of Belgium, who then form smaller groups of 32 to discuss and propose a number of specific policy recommendations (Box 4.6). In Germany, the government of Berlin’s Lichtenberg borough engages stakeholders through regular online and face-to-face activities to make and evaluate suggestions of how to spend the annual EUR 31 million discretionary budget. In order to ensure the broad participation of all stakeholders, including disadvantaged groups, 25 000 residents are randomly selected and surveyed to receive their input. The government invests considerable resources in raising awareness among stakeholders of the participatory budgeting project through posters and leaflets, information stands at local festivals and events, and information in the local media (Box 4.6).

The government in Korea should foster more government and stakeholder partnerships at the local level. However, some relevant experiences do exist. For example, since 2000, the Ministry of Education has run the “Lifelong Learning City” project, which promotes government and stakeholder partnerships in lifelong learning at the city level. In 2019, 160 Korean cities were designated as official Lifelong Learning Cities, representing 70% of all Korean cities. In each lifelong learning city there is an ordinance or law to support governance structures that involve residents, experts and local social partners in a decision-making process that develops mid- and long-term goals. The amount of funding the Ministry of Education provides depends on the size of the city and its project plan. This national funding is complemented with funding from the city and stakeholders. While the performance of lifelong learning cities varies significantly (Ministry of Education, 2019[43]), a good practice case study of Suwon City can be found in Box 4.5.

Along similar lines, in 2006 the Ministry of Employment and Labour created the “Local-based Job Creation Support Programme” which works with local NGOs, academic institutions, unions and employer associations, regional skills councils, and subnational governments to develop innovative job creation projects, relevant training programmes and career counselling services. In 2018, the government provided around USD 95 million to fund 455 selected local projects. A relevant case study of Gwangju, which has been highlighted by stakeholders in Korea as an example of good practice, can be found in Box 4.5.

When evaluating such stakeholder initiatives, sufficient time should be given to show results, as investments in adult learning programmes take time to bear fruit. Otherwise, any experimentation and the development of new initiatives may be discouraged. Currently, most of these programmes are evaluated annually, which does not provide sufficient time to significantly improve and demonstrate adult learning outcomes. The government should thus also consider medium- and long-term outcomes (e.g. more than one year) when evaluating how funding for local initiatives is spent. This would allow stakeholders more time and flexibility to try different approaches to identify those that best fit the local context.

The management of government and stakeholder partnerships, such as the Lifelong Learning City project and the Local-based Job Creation Support Programme, could be improved. Discussions with participants as part of this project reveal that in these partnerships, stakeholders are often competing for funding from the government, which reduces incentives for them to work together. When stakeholders do not collaborate in adult learning programmes there can be the unnecessary duplication of efforts and an inefficient use of financial resources (OECD, 2020[11]). Stakeholders who are also better organised and represented (as discussed in the previous opportunity) are also better positioned to submit well-developed proposals than disadvantaged stakeholder groups (e.g. non-regular workers, women and youth) and may thus have a higher chance of being selected.

In order to address these issues, the government should encourage stakeholders to submit joint proposals and give priority to proposals that specifically involve disadvantaged stakeholder groups. This would encourage both well-represented and disadvantaged stakeholders to build government and stakeholder partnerships, as well as foster networks among stakeholders to help them collaborate in the delivery of adult learning programmes.

Suwon City is an exemplary case of a Lifelong Learning City that has been able to successfully foster networks among stakeholders, including over 600 local adult learning providers such as community centres, libraries, child and youth centres, and cultural and art centres. The network is supported by an Urban Policy Citizens’ Planning Team, which consists of representatives from the 43 neighbourhoods in Suwon. The team organises regular roundtables that invite stakeholders to explore how to better collaborate among themselves and form partnerships with the government to implement adult learning programmes. Stakeholders can present their ideas, discuss possible adult learning policy options and apply together for public funding to support their adult learning programmes. The team’s governance structure ensures that stakeholders collaborate with each another and that the voices and adult learning project proposals of all types of stakeholders, including those who are disadvantaged, are heard and considered. This governance structure could be worthwhile expanding across other cities in Korea (OECD, 2020[11]).

Across OECD countries, dedicated public-private partnership units facilitate partnerships between the government and stakeholders. They are often established in the ministry of finance or other line ministries (Table 4.5). The advantage of such units is that they can co-ordinate public-private partnership efforts across the whole of government, and promote peer learning of how to manage such partnerships effectively. This could be useful for the successful dissemination of best practices of partnerships between government and stakeholders.

Korea has a public-private partnership unit called the Public and Private Infrastructure Investment Management Centre (PIMAC), which is housed in the Korea Development Institute (KDI) and reports to the Ministry of Finance (Delmon, 2017[46]). PIMAC co-ordinates public and private partnerships that have an infrastructure component. For example, the building of school facilities can be co-financed by stakeholders, which gives them the right to receive financial returns (e.g. rent) for a specific period. PIMAC reviews applications for public-private partnership projects, conducts feasibility studies and related research, as well as provides capacity building in the management of public-private partnerships.

A public-private partnership unit specifically for adult learning could be established in Korea. This unit would provide guidelines on how to support such partnerships, identify common issues and problems, provide capacity training for government officials managing such partnerships, and disseminate good practices across the whole of government for fostering horizontal (see Chapter 2) and vertical (see Chapter 3) co-operation. Such a unit for adult learning could also consider partnerships that go beyond infrastructure investments, as contributions from stakeholders in adult learning could include the provision of trainers, materials, curriculum development, and participation in monitoring and evaluation.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to stakeholder engagement. While some engagement activities are informal, others are formal and institutionalised in law. The form of stakeholder engagement depends on the purpose of the engagement. Engaging all stakeholders equally and with the same intensity is neither effective nor practical given time and resource constraints (OECD, 2020[11]). As discussed in Opportunity 1, it is important to tailor the level of engagement according to the profile of the stakeholder group. Broadly speaking there are three levels of engagement (Table 4.6), each with an increasing effort requirement: 1) “informing” refers to the dissemination of information to stakeholders; 2) “consulting” refers to the collection of data from stakeholders; and 3) “engaging” refers to holding discussions with stakeholders. Based on the relative importance of the stakeholders (see Opportunity 1), a large number of stakeholders could be informed, a smaller number of stakeholders could be regularly consulted and only the key stakeholders could be continuously engaged through formal engagement bodies.

For stakeholders, engagement tends to be more meaningful when they have formally defined roles in governance and decision-making bodies. In a stakeholder survey in Korea, most participants stated that they viewed the existence of an independent institution or council as important or very important for a successful consensus-building process (Figure 4.8). Such an institution or body can guide policy making in adult learning by involving key stakeholders and making it mandatory for the body to discuss and provide feedback on proposals before passing the policy. Such a process is more credible and effective than one characterised by ad hoc and/or informal engagement (OECD, 2020[11]).

One common challenge across existing engagement bodies is the level of representation of specific stakeholders. While stakeholders report that the representativeness of participating groups in a consensus- building process matters for their success (Figure 4.9), some stakeholders are under-represented. For example, unions are under-represented in bodies such as regional skills councils (RSCs) and industrial skills councils (ISCs). In RSCs, unions represented only 5.3% of participants, while business associations (39.6%), employers (4.5%), local and central government (17.8%), universities and research institutes (32.9%) made up the rest. Similarly, in ISCs, unions represented 6.2% of participants, while business associations (36.5%), employers (39%), professional organisations (8.1%), and universities and research institutions (10.2%) made up the rest (Ministry of Employment and Labour, 2019[50]). In sectoral human resource development councils, union involvement is also relatively low. In some cases, while a group of stakeholders overall seems well represented, a certain subgroup may not be. For example, employers are well represented generally in ISCs, but large employers are not represented. Overall, further efforts are needed to balance the level of representation across stakeholders in Korea’s engagement bodies.

When the participation of a given stakeholder group is low relative to others, it becomes more challenging for that group to have their voices heard. Achieving a more balanced proportion is thus advisable. The government is aware of the imbalance in the participation of stakeholder groups in engagement bodies, and aims to raise the proportion of union representation to 10% in the abovementioned councils, which is heading in the right direction but still low compared to other countries. For example, in the Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium), the social and economic councils are equally composed of 10 employer representatives and 10 union representatives, which ensures that their voices have equal weight in the policy discussions (Box 4.8).

Another common challenge is the significant overlap in terms of mandate and responsibilities across bodies. The same stakeholder representatives are often invited to participate in multiple bodies as they sometimes cover similar issues on the topic of adult learning. The large number of such bodies is partly due to the lack of co-ordination and co-operation among the different institutions and ministries, which often created these bodies for their own specific purposes. These bodies thus tend to make decisions in favour of their respective overseeing ministries (Korea, 2019[17]). However, from a practical standpoint this duplicates engagement efforts and makes the process of engagement more inefficient as a whole, with certain bodies competing with each other. This underlines the importance of better co-ordination across these bodies. Better co-ordination between sectoral human resource development councils and ISCs is being planned, including through the alignment of their roles and responsibilities (Lee et al., 2019[51]) (Box 4.7).

Engagement bodies should be reviewed and, when appropriate, consolidated. Not all engagement bodies are equally effective. During the OECD mission to Korea, participants reported that there are vast differences even within the same type of engagement body. For example, while the Busan Regional Skills Council (see Box 3.1. in Chapter 3) was often mentioned as a good practice example, this would not apply to all regional skills councils. Systematic and regular review and monitoring efforts would be helpful to determine which engagement bodies are operating well and which are not, and the determining factors in terms of performance. Given that in some cases there are significant overlaps in functions across engagement bodies, the Korean government may also consider consolidating some of these bodies, and thus reduce the overall number. The Ministry of Interior and Safety (MoIS) conducts an annual monitoring of activities undertaken by councils, which involves recording the number of meetings convened, attendance, agenda, actions taken and budget allocated. However, the decision-making authority to consolidate or abolish councils resides with the parent ministries, and there are currently no set standards on which to base such decisions (Lee et al., 2019[51]). A legally binding framework with clear standards and a co-ordinating mechanism among the relevant line ministries of bodies should support the process of making decisions about consolidating or abolishing committees and councils.

The effectiveness of individual bodies should be strengthened through policy specific working groups. As these bodies often have the mandate to cover a range of policy issues that include, but also go beyond, adult learning, this issue is often not given much space on their agendas. To improve the effectiveness of dealing with specific policy issues such as adult learning, it would be useful to have separate working groups under each body that are responsible for specific policy issues (see also Chapter 3). Such working groups can meet more frequently than the plenary sessions and be composed of relevant experts in the policy area. In order to select members with relevant policy expertise to participate in such working groups, greater autonomy should be given to the working groups for the member selection process, without too much influence from the overseeing ministries (Korea, 2019[17]). For example, in the Economic and Social Council (SER) of the Netherlands, an executive committee conducts the day-to-day work, while a specialised sub-committee or working group prepares recommendations on specific policy issues. This allows the SER to cover a wide range of policy domains, including adult learning, while also being able to consider each in depth (Box 4.8).


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