[EDITORIALS]Solution for temporary workersThe biggest issue in labor-management relations this year is the problem of temporary workers. The matter is a difficult one, but a solution cannot be delayed any longer. The ratio of nonregular workers to the total number of workers in Korea was 32.6 percent at the end of last year, based on the International Monetary Fund’s standards. It was the highest level among the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In Korea, the number of temporary workers, who receive only half of the regular workers’ salaries and who remain concerned about layoffs, is on the rise constantly. This will inevitably lead to a deterioration in labor-management relations, an increase in the number of the impoverished and a deepening of social conflicts. Companies believe they must secure labor market flexibility to be competitive. But if they increase the percentage of temporary workers, labor conditions will deteriorate. Thus labor and business are demanding sacrifice and concessions from the other, while the government sits by.
The government should consider a Spanish-style model, recently recommended by the International Monetary Fund. The Spanish government gave subsidies or tax benefits to companies that converted their temporary workers into regular employees in exchange for cutting the full-time workers’ retirement pay. As a result, regular jobs accounted for 76 percent of the 1.5 million jobs created between 1997 and 2000.
Korea’s government, labor and business sectors say it is necessary to end discrimination against nonregular workers, but they are making no efforts to do so. Labor has said that regular workers’ wages should be raised by 10 percent this year and temporary workers’ salaries should be raised to 85 percent of those of regular workers. But what company can tolerate such an increase? For their part, companies should only employ the minimum percentage of nonregular workers that is necessary.
The issue cannot be set aside any longer. Considering the difficulties faced by companies, a cut in the percentage of temporary workers should be made gradually. And the government must support it through tax benefits and other means.