Pernicious nepotism

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Pernicious nepotism

It is no secret that the labor unions of large Korean companies have built an indestructible fortress for lifelong employment and compensation. But another uncomfortable truth is they have arranged to keep their prerogatives and rich legacy in their families. According to a survey sponsored by the Employment and Labor Ministry, 180 companies, or 29 percent of 600 work places that employ more than 300, have pacts with their unions to offer placement preference to family members of full-time employees. Offspring or spouses of retired employees receive priority or preferential points when applying for jobs. These long-established back-door recruitment benefits have evolved and been taken for granted over the years.

One tire manufacturing company stipulates the recruitment priority to family members of former employees in its union agreement. Many employers also promise to hire family members if an employee has to quit due to injury or illness unrelated to work. The hereditary recruitment policy was demanded by labor unions and employers accepted their terms. Employers are as much at fault for agreeing to such unfair and unjust preferences.

Unionized full-time workers at large Korean companies enjoy big salaries and various perks. They are stealing opportunities from a broader range of young people if they endeavor to keep lucrative opportunities within their families. Young people in their 20s and early 30s are struggling and fiercely competing to find decent-paying jobs that have become scarcer. Those lucky enough to have parents who work in large companies worry less. This society can hardly be deemed fair and equal if a certain group enjoys benefits at the expense of others and if employers prioritize family background in hiring.

Unemployment among young people was an all-time high of 9.2 percent last month. The competition rate is 100 applicants for each opening at most well-known corporations. The government, however, keeps to the sidelines. It argues it cannot regulate hereditary hiring because there are no legal grounds for doing so. If no regulations exist, legislation should be drafted and adopted. A committee of the government, employers and labor unions should review a voluntary ban on the unfair recruitment practice. Employers and unions must agree that preferential recruitment based on family is a selfish and backward policy that harms the rest of society.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 14, Page 26

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