[CON]Job creation is the answerA formal meal usually has an appetizer and a main dish. The cook pays special attention to the main dish he or she serves to guests. The government’s job policy, however, seems to have gotten its priorities mixed up. The appetizer - part-time work - is decorated and presented more like a main dish.
Past governments also attempted to find a breakthrough in the job market through part-time positions but could not forge ahead due to protests. The Park Geun-hye administration placed strategic weight on part-time work to help pull up employment figures. The government would provide administrative and public-sector part-time positions on a regular basis and encourage the private sector to follow suit. The part-time positions will be on the permanent payroll and given stable contracts to ensure job security. The biggest beneficiaries would be women and retirees.
A part-time work policy is excellent in theory, but won’t help to solve the job impasse. It’s an easy way to raise the employment rates, sort of like the way you take a crack at the easy problems first when sitting for a test. But if a government in its early stage keeps settling on the easier ways to solve problems, it will never be able to address hard ones like job creation, which demands difficult reforms.
We need an entirely new mind-set in order to set the right direction on a lasting job policy. Bureaucrats and politicians mostly resort to easy - and less controversial - labor policies instead of coming up with genuine foresight and wisdom. The part-time job proposal could end up as a publicity gimmick or shell game like the youth and administrative internship programs introduced by the Lee Myung-bak government.
Then what’s the right policy? Authorities must never forget that the solution lies in the small and mid-sized corporate sector. Various social and legal grounds are necessary in the industrial sector to help business start-ups blossom and bloom. Small and mid-sized companies must be encouraged to try their hand selling overseas and invest more in research and development through various aid programs. Long-term employees must be given privileges so that more talented people are drawn to smaller companies.
The government must subsidize and enforce hiring of experts overseeing safety at industrial sites of small and mid-sized enterprises and help improve living and working infrastructure in the areas thick with small and mid-sized manufacturers. Anti-trust regulations should also be toughened to protect smaller companies from predatory business activities of large enterprises. The smaller business sector is demanding the government play a role to help them grow and prosper.
Other necessary legislation - retirement age extensions, increased scope in ordinary wages, holiday compensation, subcontractor regulations and cuts in working hours - should be implemented according to a clear road map. There’s much confusion in the labor and corporate sectors as the issues pop up here and there without order, discussions or consensus.
Germany’s Hartz concept, which became part of the Agenda 2010, was a bold campaign to structurally revolutionize the labor market through painful reforms. The government is poorly mimicking the Germans with its part-time work idea. It must look straight at the essence of the problem and come up with programs to turn the small and mid-sized business sector into a hotbed for jobs.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
* The author is an economics professor at Sungkyunkwan University.
by Cho Joon-mo