Opposition lays out welfare plans

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Opposition lays out welfare plans

The largest opposition party unveiled a set of policy platforms aimed at attracting young and older voters on Friday, with promises of jobs for struggling young job seekers and an increase in basic pensions for those over 65.

The Minjoo Party of Korea, which is now headed by emergency committee chairman Kim Chong-in, announced a set of ambitious policy plans that includes creating 700,000 new jobs in both the public and private sectors and providing a monthly allowance of 600,000 won ($500) for six months for young job seekers.

Specifically, the party outlined Friday that by mandating companies to adhere to a 40-hour workweek and introducing a mandatory employment quota for young applicants, nearly 700,000 jobs could be created.

“The past three years will be remembered as three years of broken promises by the Park Geun-hye government. The job market has become worse and inequality has gotten worse,” Rep. Rhee Mok-hee said during a press briefing at the National Assembly.

The Minjoo Party, which now has 109 lawmakers, also made a promise to hand out 600,000 won per month for up to six months for those looking for jobs, estimating that 50,000 job seekers would be eligible and that it would cost approximately 360 billion won to carry out the pledge.

The party also pledged to provide 200,000 won a month in basic pensions to people aged 65 and older in the bottom 70 percent income bracket, in an apparent swipe at the current state-run basic pension system implemented by the Park administration. The latter scaled back its earlier promise to provide 200,000 won to all seniors regardless of income level from the 2012 campaign, citing budgetary constraints.

Currently, those over 65 who are in the bottom 70 percent income bracket receive between 100,000 and 200,000 won a month based on the number of years they contributed to the national pension system.

But such welfare pledges have raised questions over whether the Minjoo Party is pursuing a so-called populist agenda for the sake of winning votes from struggling young job seekers without regard for fiscal feasibility. On such concerns, Lee Yong-sub, who heads the party’s policy platform team, said that restoring the maximum corporate tax rate to 25 percent from the current 22 percent would enable the government to implement the welfare policies.

“[If we do well in the general election], the Minjoo Party will put in its best efforts to restore the corporate tax rate,” Lee said.

The previous Lee Myung-bak administration, which had campaigned for so-called business-friendly policy, slashed the maximum corporate tax rate from 25 percent to 22 percent in 2008.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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