Sociologists believe that a person's social location whether within a nation or community is based on his family's resources, which determine his/her quality of life, life chances, and social mobility. In the current paper, I will support the sociologists’ position that there is a direct relationship between personal and family stability and community stability. I will prove that a person’s individual effort as a theory for upward social mobility is a limited explanation. To fully grasp and gain deeper insight into the reasons for people’s upward social mobility, one needs to study social policies and individual’s social locations as they have a great impact on determining peoples’ life chances.
In my home country, South Korea, people value education. For this reason, the government has established Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development for teaching student such skills as literacy and sciences with the average South Korean student scoring 542. It is a high score compared to OECD average of 497 (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2014, 9). The academic success of such students is a result of the nation's extensive education policies that equalize the quality of education afforded to students from both highest and lowest socio-economic backgrounds.
It is worth noting that South Koreans believe in children being the human capital of a nation, whereby their education, skills, and entrepreneurial culture is important in improving a nation's economy. Such belief is based on their Confucian religion, which strives for growing highly educated people. According to Hays (2003), it is the main factor that differentiates the U.S.A. from such countries as South Korea. In the U.S.A., the culture of individualism and self-sufficiency has made the nation refuse from viewing children as human capital. For this reason, the “lawmakers do not make social and educational policies that cater for poor mothers and their children that could influence their life chances” (49). In South Korea, treating children as human capital has enabled the government to establish educational and social policies that improve a citizen’s life.
An example of education policy in South Korea is the compulsory education policy established in the nation since 1979, which has enabled children from all classes to be able to attend school. The standardized new curriculum is another program used by both private and public schools (OECD, 2014, 9). The fact that South Korean government provides students of all backgrounds with educational opportunities increases their life chances. It is the reason why my grandparents and parents were able to succeed in life and improve the family’s social upward mobility.
South Korea spends 6.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on healthcare. It is lower compared to 15 percent spends by the U.S.A. on the same purpose (OECD, 2014, 12). South Korea has adequate health policies that cater for the welfare of people. For example, the national health insurance program protects the health care of South Koreans. Everyone is required to enroll and pay premiums. The program is cheap as it operates on a single payer system that significantly decreases the administrative costs. However, there is a category of people exempted from the program. They include the poor, refugees, children of independent fighters, and other significant contributors to the nation. The government fully pays for their medical insurance (OECD, 2014, 13). By providing care for such people, the government gives them a chance to have better opportunities in life. Consequently, due to the efficient health care system, the life expectancy of South Koreans at birth is eighty-one years. It is higher than the OECD level of eighty years (OECD, 2014, 13). It has contributed to numerous hard working families due to the fact that the government protects health of its citizens.
Housing for Poor and Single Mothers
The Seoul and Busan Metropolitan governments introduced a housing policy for poor single women and provide them with safe shelter, health care services, and job opportunities. The two governments supplied the women with two thousand units of rental studio apartments (OECD, 2014, 14). They also provided them with medical services and women’s on-site clinics. Moreover, the national government is improving the job prospects for single women by offering them internships.
The U.S.A., on its side, lacks appropriate social policies for single mothers. It has the punitive Temporary Aid for Needy Families Program that expects such women to work and imposes sanctions for those who refuse to work. Moreover, such women are “expected to make forty job contacts within thirty days” and not to” miss any job appointment for any reason whatsoever” (Hays, 2003, 45). The policy also denies children the right to healthcare. When compared to the U.S.A.’s policies, South Korean policies provide better life chances for women and their children.
Reduction of Work Hours
According to the OECD 2014 better life index, most South Korean workers devote 61 percent of their day to personal care and taking care of their families, which is 14.6 hours (15). It is what Hochschild (2012) refers to as the second shift. It translates to good health, quality family time, and better life chances for South Korean families. However, according to Hochschild, social classes determine the extent of the second shift. The rich will easily order specific services to perform chores at home, thereby managing to spend more time with their children. The middle class and poor will handle the duties themselves and may become too tired to spend time with their families (19). Consequently, working hours reduction policies exist especially for such classes of people.
Schulte (2014) also believes that a decrease of work policies improve people's life chances. She explains that "people's efficient work is limited to five to six hours a day" (14). Employees need time away from work to refresh their ability to solve problems and improve creativity. As a result, they need to decrease their working hours (Hochschild, 2012, 194). For this reason, South Korean policies grant workers 61 percent of their day to family time to help them improve their and their families’ life chances.
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Level of Resources Available in Keumjung School District
My neighborhood is located at Keumjung school district, in Busan, South Korea. Busan, the nation’s second largest city after Seoul, is an economic center (OECD, 2014). It is known internationally for its shipbuilding, automobile, machinery, and steel industries. Busan is also among the cities that form the nation's largest industrial zone. My father owns an automobile company in the Busan region. It is the reason for our settlement in the area. As an engineer, he established his own company where he makes and fixes machinery used in automobiles. He has also expanded his business to involve the exportation of automobiles to countries, such as Japan. The exporting opportunities are made possible by Busan's proximity to Japan. The geographical location of his business has contributed to its enormous success. It has translated to the availability of resources to care for his family and to afford his children the best education worldwide.
Busan is also known as the educational center of the southeast region (OECD, 2014). Keumjung house district is home to several national and international schools. I attended Peniel High School, one of the best private schools nationwide. Other national schools housed in the school district include Busan University of Foreign Studies, Busan Arts College, and Korea Maritime University. Some of the foreign schools in the area include Busan International Foreign School, Busan Japanese School, and Busan Foreign School, as well as an elementary school. The availability of the nation's best schools in the area contributed to my attendance of Peniel High School. Peniel High School is a quality school with an average of three hundred and fifty students per grade. IT-related technologies, such as computers, are available for students to become acquainted with the technological world. Such factors as learning in such school and living in the school district have greatly contributed to my life chances.
Keumjung Borough is an affluent region due to the area being a commercial zone and a school district. The families in the region have invested in housing. According to OECD better life index (2014), South Koreans spend 16 percent of their gross adjusted disposable income on housing. It is the lowest level in OECD region (4). Most people can, therefore, afford decent housing on this side of the country as compared to such areas as Kulyung in Seoul, where the housing problems worsen by the increase in the number of squatters in the region (4). Most houses in Keumjung school district are high-end apartments housing nuclear families. Most people in the neighborhood own expensive cars. Amenities, such as swimming pools, libraries, playgrounds, parks, and community centers are available in the area. The environment is clean as the workers from Busan's Metropolitan Government are assigned to clean the neighborhood. With such positive environment, a student is expected to perform well at school and look for employment opportunities in the commercial region.
Keumjung Borough is a safe neighborhood as it is a commercial zone and a school district. There are several security firms, including G4S security company headquartered in the region and guarding houses and businesses. Moreover, there are fully functioning Closed Circuit TVs in all apartments in the area. The safety of the school district has contributed to almost all students in the region using public transportation to school. Busan has a fully functioning and organized public transportation system. For example, there are four safe light rail transit lines. Most students in the school district use the subway to school. It is rare to see a student driven to school by his parent, which is a common phenomenon in the U.S.A. The resources available in Keumjung have contributed to the quality of life for my family, as well. The stability of the region has caused my father' business to progress and have enabled me to receive quality education.
Family’s Private Resources
My family's resources also contributed to my increased chances in life. My family has for generations experienced upward mobility. My paternal grandfather is a university graduate, while my grandmother completed middle school. It entitled them to well-paying jobs that provided them with financial resources. Moreover, it is easier for South Koreans to receive an employment as compared to the U.S.A. In South Korea, 64 percent of the working-age population is employed with 77 percent of people with at least tertiary education having a well-paying job. The unemployment rate in the nation in 2014 was 3.20 percent, while that of the U.S. was 7.30 percent (OECD, 2014, 5). My father graduated high school and was in his third year of university studying engineering when he left it to start his own automobile firm. My mother comes from an affluent family that sponsored her education. She graduated university with a business management degree and currently helps my father manage the family business. My parent’s line of work guarantees them enough financial resources to send me to quality schools. Such resources have entitled me to an upward social mobility. However, I am one of the unique cases from Busan region who wants to study abroad. In South Korea, and mostly Bucan, even though people can afford to send their children for further studies abroad, most parents prefer that their children study in the country. It is caused by the fact that the world-class education system is available in South Korea. Therefore, I am grateful that my parent's financial support enabled me to study at UCB.
Most South Koreans follow the Confucian culture that lays an emphasis on education. The culture obligates children to provide for their parents in their old age. Therefore, parents invest in their children's education knowing they are investing in their retirement fund. The culture has motivated my family's generational investments of parents in their children. It has prompted my parents to send me to the University of California, Berkeley, to have the best opportunities in the world so that in future I can take care of them.
Considering the fact that my personal effort has facilitated my success, it is evident that South Korea's social policies and especially my family's wealth and social location have tremendously contributed to my life chances. The nation's compulsory education and standardized curriculum education policies have provided children from different social classes with equal opportunities for studies. The health policies have entitled citizens to quality health care services and better life chances. The geographical location of Keumjung school district in the affluent Busan region allows a student to receive quality educational opportunities and a safe environment. Due to the fact that it is an economic zone, the neighborhood has a positive influence on the increase of family resources. It proves that the stability of a community determines the stability of a family. Moreover, an increase in family’s financial resources improves the family’s life chances. It is the reason why my family afforded sending me to a private high school and the University of California.