[EDITORIALS]Fixing the Korean job market

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[EDITORIALS]Fixing the Korean job market

The Ministry of Labor yesterday said that it would propose a law that could help end discrimination against temporary and part-time workers before the end of the year. Both umbrella unions ― the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions ― have adopted the issue of discriminatory treatment of such workers as their main agenda item for the year. The problem of those workers looms as a major issue in labor-management relations this year.
The number of irregular workers has increased since the foreign exchange crisis in 1997; they now number 4,650,000, about a third of the total work force. The wage levels of those workers are less than half of those of regular workers. Last month an irregular worker in his 50s committed suicide, complaining of inhumane working conditions.
For social stability, we desperately need to solve this problem, and we have to study the root causes of the problem.
Most businesses would prefer to employ regular workers because they generally have higher skills and more loyalty to the company. But businesses complain that they have no choice but to hire temporary and part-time workers because it is too difficult to fire a regular worker once he is employed. The excessive instinct for self-protection by regular workers is enshrined in law to the detriment of those not lucky enough to have a regular job.
We applaud the umbrella labor groups for taking up the problem of irregular workers after ignoring them for so long. But their approach to the problem has flaws. They call for raising the wages of irregular workers to 85 percent of a regular worker’s wage and also want a 10-percent increase in regular wage levels. That simply ignores the reality behind the problem.
Regular workers must make some concessions on hiring and firing. After they make such concessions, they can make other demands of their employers.
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