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Ministries lay out plans to boost nation’s employment

One key issue is Korea’s rapidly aging baby boomers  PLAY AUDIO

Dec 15,2009
The welfare, labor and gender ministries underlined the importance of “job creation” and “more aid for the needy” in their annual policy report to President Lee Myung-bak and government officials yesterday.

It was the first day of the series of annual report sessions by all government ministries and institutions.

President Lee said he picked those ministries as the first to report on policies for next year because creating jobs for the needy and younger generation is a critical state task.

During the session, the Welfare Ministry pledged to increase jobs by expanding paid in-hospital caretaker service that is currently available to a limited demographic due to its hefty costs and no government subsidies.

The ministry plans to include the service in the non-insurance covered medical costs beginning next year. The following year, the service will be covered by national health insurance. By then, the number of caretakers will increase to 10,000, according to ministry estimates.

The ministry also expects to see 50,000 additional jobs next year when it raises the number of beneficiaries of long-term recuperation insurance policies.

Currently people benefiting from long-term recuperation insurance total 280,000, and the figure is projected to grow to 380,000, according to the ministry.

When other types of welfare and health care services to be newly implemented are taken into account, a total of 150,000 new jobs will have been created by the end of next year.

The ministry also plans to establish a so-called “global U health medical center” to provide remote medical treatment service through “ubiquitous” IT devices to patients overseas.

Hospitals that volunteer to concentrate on medical research instead of medical treatment will receive tax breaks, larger medical fees and other benefits for doctors.

The Gender Ministry said it will boost support for women seeking jobs by introducing more flexible work hours.

Under the so-called “purple job” system, female employees are given the freedom to choose how many hours to work per day and whether they work full or part time. Before having the private sector implement the system, the ministry will allow its officials to work part time and retain their status as civil servants from the beginning of next year. If the program is successful, the ministry will encourage public institutions to adopt it.

Separately, the Labor Ministry promised to allow regular job holders to work part time, regardless of gender. That means regular workers can receive salaries in proportion to their working hours with guarantees of their job status and social welfare benefits, including employment insurance and national health insurance.

The Gender Ministry said it also plans to establish a center that helps mothers who find it difficult to find jobs after taking time off to give birth.

The ministry hopes some 46,000 mothers will benefit from the career center.

“Enterprises seem to feel that we have now returned to the pre-financial crisis period, but ordinary citizens face hardships in their lives,” said President Lee. He predicted that citizens will be able to see economic recovery around the second half of next year.

The Labor Ministry prioritized aiding the baby boom generation, which faces retirement in 2010, with a wage peak system. The scheme refers to incremental salary cuts for those workers in return for job security after they reach a certain age. An enterprise can implement the system only after the head of employees at each workplace gives consent.

The baby boom generation is defined as people born between 1955 and 1963. The ministry predicts some 7 million will retire from 2010 through 2018. Such massive retirement carries with it the potential of causing social insecurity because the boomers have been a sizable pillar of the nation’s economy.

“By 2020, baby boom generation members will be senior citizens and that means Korea will turn into an aging society,” said a Health Ministry spokesman. “We aim to minimize the impact by taking pre-emptive measures.”

To ease unemployment among college graduates, the Labor Ministry plans to dispatch “employment assistants” to 150 universities nationwide. The assistants will be those who were in charge of human resources and labor affairs at private enterprises.

Also, the ministry will establish a database of 60,000 graduates of colleges and professional high schools to help them be located by small and midsized firms.

President Lee ordered the establishment of a national employment strategy meeting under the Blue House and pledged to preside over the meeting once a month to check if those new job plans are being appropriately implemented.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said it will consider providing child care fees including medical costs to under-age single mothers until they reach a certain age - a measure intended to prevent abortion and address the nation’s low birthrate.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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