Securing Equal Work Opportunities: Korea’s Mandatory Quota Policy and Training to Promote Employment of People with Disabilities

This delivery case study examines how the Republic of Korea implemented policies, beginning in the 1990s, to ensure that people with disabilities who wanted to work could have access to equal work opportunities.

To download and read the full case study, click here.

To read a condensed delivery note, prepared by Yongjin Lee, click here.


Beginning in the 1950s, economic policies in the Republic of Korea did not focus intensively on the welfare and employment of people with disabilities. However, by the 1980s, the public and policymakers turned their attention to this issue.

Development Challenge

The core development challenge was to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities who wanted to work. 


Policymakers responded to growing public calls for greater opportunities for people with disabilities by passing the ‘Promotion, etc. of Employment of Disabled Persons Act’ to increase work opportunities for people with disabilities. The Act created a mandatory employment system that obligated national and local governments, public organizations, and private enterprises of a certain size to hire people with disabilities for a certain proportion of positions. To enforce implementation, the Act imposed levies on employers who did not meet the quota requirement. By 2015, the program had significantly increased the number of people with disabilities who were employed in both the public and private sectors. To achieve this, however, the program had to overcome multiple delivery challenges.

Delivery Challenges

Implementation of the new policy faced difficulties in execution due to lack of established implementation systems and resources. However, a support system for the implementation of the system, particularly with regard to human resources and enforcement infrastructure, was initially insufficient. One challenge for the government was that some private companies were reluctant to hire people with disabilities. Also, employers highlighted the importance of job training for people with disabilities. In addition to the business owners’ attitudes toward the new system, in other words, many people with disabilities lacked the marketable skills needed for them to be hired.

The government also faced financial challenges in supporting employment of people with disabilities. It implemented the mandatory employment system by imposing a levy on the companies that did not meet the requirements. Despite collecting the levy, the Employment Promotion Fund for the Disabled was depleted in the early 2000’s, and it caused difficulties in supporting the employment of individuals with disabilities.

Lessons Learned

Combining a Systematic Vision with Adaptive Implementation

The role of the government in promoting the employment of people with disabilities was strengthened and adapted continuously over time, especially following the revision of the Employment Promotion and Vocational Rehabilitation for Disabled Persons Act in 1999. The major policy change was the expansion of the number of companies subjected to the mandatory employment quota system. The percentage of positions exempted from the quota was also reduced or abolished. The mandatory employment percentage was raised from 2 percent when the law was enacted to 3 percent in 2009. The percentage of labor force participants with disabilities now exceeds 2 percent. The success of the series of Five-Year Plans highlights the importance of a combination of systematic planning with adaptive implementation, particularly in mid- to long-term policies that seek to change social norms.

Funding Policies for Inclusion

Implementation of this policy required a significant budget. Korea spent ₩270 billion (US$235 million) in the 2015 fiscal year. Korea imposes levies on companies that fail to satisfy the mandatory hiring quota and uses those levies to finance a fund that promotes the employment of people with disabilities. The fund became depleted in early 2000, creating performance issues for policy. To tackle this problem, the amount of the subsidy paid to business owners who exceeded the mandated employment percentage was adjusted, and different levy rates, depending on the business’s employment rate, were imposed on businesses whose percentage fell below the mandated level. These actions stabilized the fund, allowing the employment policy to be implemented more effectively.