Gov’t measures to get women back to work

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Gov’t measures to get women back to work

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In order to reach its goal of achieving a 70 percent overall employment rate, the government yesterday announced measures to help housewives and mothers return to the workplace.

The measures are organized by period - pregnancy and delivery, caring for children under eight and re-employment - and are supposed to reflect the government’s determination to root out chronic discrimination in employment for women in Korea.

“American economist Nancy Folbre said economic development relies not only on the invisible hand but also on the invisible heart, referring to altruistic caring for females,” said Hyun Oh-seok, deputy finance minister, at a press conference in Yeouido, western Seoul, yesterday.

“Women have been suffering discrimination in employment, promotion and salary levels, and some were forced to quit their jobs basically for being women. We shouldn’t wait another minute to compensate them for their devotion to our economy.”

Yesterday’s measures included more detailed versions of plans discussed earlier by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Gender and Family.

From October, male employees will be able to go on paternity leave within 90 days of a child’s birth, with a full monthly base salary in the first month of leave. The measure will apply to fathers of a second child.

Currently, fathers taking leave receive 40 percent of their base monthly salary with an upper cap of 1 million won ($924). The ceiling will be raised to 1.5 million won.

There will be no distinction between maternity and paternity leave. Both will be called parental leave.

The measure was one of President Park Geun-hye’s campaign pledges.

Non-salaried workers can receive similar benefits if they sign a new contract with their current employers within 15 months of giving birth to a child.

The government will provide those employers with 300,000 won to 600,000 won per employee, depending on contract terms, as an incentive for maintaining their workers.

Female workers who choose not to take leave can shorten their work hours to 15 to 30 hours per week and receive 60 percent of their base salaries for up to two years, up from the current 40 percent. The maximum amount will be raised to 937,500 won from 625,000 won.

To help companies hire substitute workers for parents on leave, the government will pay 600,000 won per employee for small businesses and 300,000 won for large businesses - double the current amounts.

The Finance Ministry said it will pour 4.6 trillion won into government projects related to women in the workplace this year.

Two major sources of the increased budget for female employment measures will be the nation’s employment insurance fund and the governmental budget.

“Since the current financial situation of the employment insurance fund isn’t good, more of the money will come from the budget,” said Employment Minister Bang Ha-nam.

The latest government plan didn’t mention penalties for companies that don’t comply with the government’s recommendations. The business community yesterday expressed opposition to the government’s push.


by SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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