The story on companies with good work-life balance published on Jan. 17 and 18 garnered skeptical responses. It featured a father who uses flexible work hours to have breakfast with his three children before taking them to school and another father who is in his second year of paternity leave. Readers thought these stories were more farfetched than science fiction. Some said this could only be possible at large companies with good performance records and funding.
But the companies with good work-life balance featured in the article are not necessarily high-performing, loaded companies. Asiana Airlines guarantees two-year maternity leaves despite its serious financial problems. Babiz Korea, where all employees leave work on time, is a company with about 50 workers. Golfzon, the mother company of Golfzon Networks, started as a one-person venture and expanded.
But these companies share something others don’t have. It is the will of the CEO. Rather than waiting until all conditions are met to implement work-life balance, the chief executive officer introduced changes one by one. “It is true that the cost was a burden when the benefits were introduced. But now, the benefit system is growing and has great effects,” Golfzon Networks CEO Shin Jong-sung said.
Of course, each company is in a different industry and has a distinct financial situation. Not every company can introduce a system that works for another. Also, employees’ expectations can vary. Workers at small companies without proper benefit systems said that one worker is given various tasks and cannot take leave as he or she wishes. Employees at big corporations with a solid benefit system also say that only a handful of workers get to use benefits.
Ironically, the lack of benefits means more room to expand work-life balance policies. The low fertility rate has become a serious social problem, and it can be resolved only when jobs, housing, child care and parenting are improved simultaneously. Rather than tackling all issues at once, we need to address them one by one.
Each company and organization should seek its own solution to improve work-life balance. The government should not spare financial and administrative support. Only then can Korea be one step closer to increasing its low fertility problem.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 19, Page 33
*The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.