Realistic solutions for jobs neededA committee representing the labor, management and government sectors has begun its activities in the new Park Geun-hye administration. With the head of the combative Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) absent from the meeting, Federation of Korean Trade Unions Chairman Moon Jin-kook, Korea Employers Federation Chairman Lee Hee-beom and the Minister of Employment and Labor Phang Ha-nam all agreed to find realistic solutions to help raise the employment rate to 70 percent. At the same time, they rolled up their sleeves to weather the current gloomy economic situation to ease workers’ jitters over serious joblessness.
The Korean economy is in the doldrums due to a critical lack of a growth engine, slow growth in exports and imports and a pessimistic investment mood. The biggest worry, however, comes from worsened job security as a result of a drastic decrease in quality jobs. The days when joblessness was handled by the government were over long ago. The current economic structure is built on a system that calls for mutual cooperation between labor and management.
As of the end of 2012, Korea’s employment rate for the group aged between 15 and 64 is approximately 64 percent. If the three economic parties want to lift the figure to 70 percent, each sector must devote itself to the great cause of self-sacrifice and self-renewal. Simply put, they must rid themselves of their greed and share pain together.
During the foreign exchange crisis in 1997, Koreans worked out a miraculous recovery based on a grand compromise involving labor, management and government to avert massive layoffs in return for voluntary reductions in wages. The 2008 financial crisis was no exception: All three parties reached a remarkable agreement on job sharing. This time, too, we hope that the concerned parties lay the very foundation for better jobs after mending all the conflicts between the young and old, regular and nonregular work forces, and large and small companies.
However, economic experts have cast doubt on the first meeting of the labor, management and government representatives because they attempted to deal with too many issues at the same time and because they had so many disagreements over how to achieve the goal of reducing unemployment.
We hope they concentrate on drawing a concrete set of agreements through the meeting rather than coming up with a declaration without substance. It is also important that the combative KCTU join the efforts at discussion and compromise before it’s too late.