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2017-10-26 17:15
Government plan raises questions over fairness, expenses

The Ministry of Labor and Employment unveiled Wednesday a plan aimed at realizing President Moon Jae-in’s pledge for an “era of zero irregular workers” starting with the public sector.

The government plans to shift the employment status of 205,000 irregular workers to regular employees by 2020 at 853 central and regional government agencies and public institutions. Among them, 74,000 will gain regular status this year.

Korea has a larger portion of irregular workers than other OECD countries, which is one of the main causes of the widening income gap and social disparity.

Many agree with the President’s focus on improving the livlihood of irregular workers, who only earn a fraction of what regular workers make and are excluded from the benefits for regular workers such as job security and pensions. However, the government’s status conversion has some problems.

First is the question of fairness. The President’s slogan of an era of zero irregular workers has begun to lose credibility after the education ministry decided last month not to grant regular employee status to teachers with contract-based or part-time positions.The decision affected over 40,000 education workers working in national and public schools, including 32,734 irregular teachers and 8,343 instructors.

The irregular teachers and irregular workers in other sectors will strongly protest the labor ministry’s plan since they have been excluded from the employment status shift.

The labor sector expressed disappointment in the government’s status conversion plan, saying it applies to less than half the public sector’s entire irregular workforce. Irregular workers make up 19.2 percent of 2.17 million workers in the public sector.

Another problem is the labor ministry was not specific about the extra budget for bigger payrolls.
Even now, only one out of three state-run agencies is profitable. The public firms may have to reduce their hiring plans, which is bad news for the many jobless young adults preparing to work in the public sector.

Moon’s pledge for the welfare of irregular workers cannot be fully achieved without the participation of the corporate sector. The ministry said reducing irregular workers in the public sector will hopefully spread to the corporate sector. But the government can not force the companies to drastically change its employment practices.


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