[VIEWPOINT]One policy goal, two competing ideasA conference about “the creation of good jobs” was held at the integrated government building in Sejongno, Seoul, on Wednesday, in the presence of President Roh Moo-hyun. The report prepared by the government claimed that a total of 800,000 jobs in social services will be created by 2010. Starting next year, about 200,000 jobs ― such as caretakers of the sick, after-school teachers and day-care nannies ― will be established every year.
According to the government’s claims, this will be an epoch-making idea that will improve our society’s weak welfare services and increase employment. “The social service expansion strategy” presented by the government also aims to create demand in social services, and raise the growth potential of welfare services while enhancing them. It is a fresh idea that kills two birds with one stone.
However, a fundamental misunderstanding lies beneath the plan. It distorts reality by forcefully linking two policy goals together.
Expanding social services and increasing jobs are two different policies.
The two have different goals and different objects and need different policy methods.
The government packaged the two different policies into one combined policy by coining a new phrase, “jobs for social services,” as if it was presenting a clever scheme.
The so-called expansion of social service is a welfare policy. It aims to provide services not satisfied by the voluntary participation of private organizations that receive government funds.
According to calculations by the Ministry of Planning and Budget, the social services sector needs another 533,000 workers, including 198,000 people in the field of after-school activities, 140,000 in day care, 134,000 in nursing and 61,000 in culture, arts and the environment.
The plan intends to “supply” needed human resources with financial support from the government.
What is needed here is “manpower” not “jobs.” Yet, as the welfare expansion policy abruptly combines with the employment policy, “manpower” has changed into “jobs.” The supply of labor (manpower) has suddenly become a synonym for the demand for labor (jobs).
This confusion is due to a wrong perception of jobs.
Social services are, of course, things to do because someone anyhow has to do it, but social service work is temporary job with low wages and low employment stability.
Such jobs cannot be considered economically meaningful work, even though that work has an important function in the society and the people who are engaged in it are proud of their deeds.
And most of these jobs are currently filled by volunteers, many of them from religious organizations.
In other words, they are not proper jobs that guarantee the livelihood of the people who are engaged in them, but a subject of voluntary participation with non-financial motives.
The job for social services the government is talking about is fundamentally no different from government-funded labor projects of the past. Therefore, it is illogical to insist on calling this the creation of jobs.
President Roh said, “The structure of the national economy will not allow the growth of the social economy, if social welfare does not grow.” Interpreting this statement with its inaccurate use of words, it means that the government intends to promote growth through the expansion of welfare.
Yet there has been no other time in which the government used welfare expansion as an engine for growth.
To say there is a need to raise the standard of welfare at a certain growth stage and to promote growth through welfare are two totally different things.
As fixing a carriage to make it run faster is totally different from putting the carriage in front of a horse, “creating jobs in social services” is a peculiarly twisted result that derives from misunderstandings.
There is a need for welfare expansion. However, the timing and the extent of the expansion will be decided according to budget restrictions and the social urgency of the projects.
There is a need to create jobs. However, economically meaningful jobs are not created by the government, but through the investment expansion by companies and the improvement of labor productivity. And the two agendas should be pursued separately.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-soo