Jobs trump fairness, says survey

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Jobs trump fairness, says survey

Hwang Yeong-su is sad about the days of March ticking by without receiving a bonus.

The small distribution company that the 42-year-old works for didn’t give him a bonus this year, only the second time it failed to do so in 14 years on the job.

“I still have the conviction that the owners of big companies who stand trial for breaking the law or evading taxes should be punished severely,” said Hwang. “But for the time being, I think economic revitalization should come first. The first priority is that the domestic market be invigorated.”

A JoongAng Ilbo survey showed yesterday that many Koreans are more interested in the pocketbook issues of economic revitalization than the social justice promised by so-called economic democratization - a buzzword for the previous Lee Myung-bak administration - such as cracking down on big companies and their owner families.

In the survey, conducted early last week on 700 adults across the country, 56 percent said economic renewal should be Park’s priority, as opposed to 41 percent who named economic democratization as the top item on their agenda.

That is good for the Park administration, which is shifting its economic policy from economic democratization to economic revitalization.

Lee Jang-hee, a business administration professor at Konkuk University, said the survey reflects people’s acknowledgment of the efforts to improve fair trade practices and corporate ownership structure.

More than half of those surveyed also gave an approving nod to Park’s drive to deregulate the country’s key industries, dominated by large-sized companies. Of the respondents, 53.4 percent said the government’s top policy regarding large-sized companies should be job creation by way of deregulation and more investment.

In recent months, Park has been championing a drive to do away with red tape. During a meeting with chief Blue House secretaries last Monday, Park likened excessive regulation to a “cancer needs to be removed.” On Wednesday, she said the government’s fight against regulation is a “live or die” situation.

But the sentiments described by the survey toward large companies were not all favorable.

The survey included a question about whether large companies made a significant contribution to Korea’s economic development. Only 49.9 percent of the surveyed said yes.

Three-fifths of the respondents said the number of jobs created at large companies is not enough, while 50.6 percent said large companies should increase their investments.

Last year, the top 600 companies in Korea made 125 trillion won ($116.6 billion) in investment, short of their initial goal of 129.7 trillion won.

“The level of investment by large companies since early this year is only 80 percent to 90 percent of what they said they would invest,” said Seo Chang-bae, a professor of economics at Pukyong National University in Busan. “Large companies can lose people’s favorable opinions if they fall short in job creation, which has become the most important target area.”

The margin of error of the survey was 3.7 percent.

BY LEE SANG-JAE [joe@joongang.co.kr]



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