[Letters] Paying out proper wages to day laborers

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[Letters] Paying out proper wages to day laborers

Irregular day labor is synonymous with poverty. The construction industry in particular only requires workers when there is a project, so construction workers are naturally day laborers. It is estimated that there are over 1.2 million day laborers in the country.

Their wage level has remained nearly unchanged for over a decade, and wages often go unpaid or are only paid out after a long delay. Construction workers are not paid properly for a few reasons.

When a construction company wins a project with the lowest bid, it will try to cut down cost beginning with labor. Illegal immigrants provide cheaper labor, and multi-layered subcontracts provide another method to cut costs. Young workers have become reluctant to sign up for these jobs, and the construction workforce is getting older and older.

The shortage and aging of the workforce can be easily resolved by establishing a system that guarantees proper wage payment without allowing back payments. When construction bids are made, cutting the costs reserved for labor should be prohibited. Wages should be paid to the workers based on a set wage scale according skill levels.

These guidelines would be effective in preventing the adverse side effects of lowest winning bids as well. The government is set to expand the lowest bidding system as a part of its budget reduction, but doing so would only serve to hurt construction workers.

After the United States adopted this “lowest-bid” system, overall wages fell. To protect workers, the “prevailing wage” system was implemented instead. If this system were to be introduced in Korea, construction workers would be paid the wages they deserve for the work they have provided, and the builders would be able hire skilled workers without suffering financial losses.

Kang Pal-moon, CEO of the Construction Workers Mutual Aid Association.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.
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