Moon makes jobs, income growth his focus in 2018

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Moon makes jobs, income growth his focus in 2018

President Moon Jae-in emphasized reducing work hours as a policy goal this year during his first news conference of 2018 on Wednesday while praising the minimum wage increase that took effect at the start of the year as a meaningful step toward improving quality of life for workers in the country.

The liberal president also extended an olive branch to conglomerates, assuring them that corporate and labor reform would not discourage business activity but enhance their global competitiveness.

“Raising the minimum wage 16.4 percent to 7,530 won [$7.05] was a meaningful decision in changing our economic constitution,” Moon said. “It will be the foundation of income-led growth by securing quality of life for low-income workers and increasing household income.”

On work-hour reduction, President Moon said it was a project the government could no longer postpone. He called the goal of improving quality of life paramount and requested active participation and cooperation from all parties, including businesses and labor unions.

In response to a question about whether the reforms would lead to fewer jobs, Moon expressed confidence that in the long run, it would contribute to increasing the number of jobs and expanding the economy based on past precedent. “This is not the first time that the minimum wage was raised by double digits,” he said, “and there are many cases overseas.”

He added that the Blue House would come up with policies to protect vulnerable employees like security guards and janitors who have been most affected by the minimum wage increase. Many residential complexes and businesses have been laying off custodial staff after their salaries went up with the new year.

“This year, we will be entering an era where our gross national income per capita reaches $30,000,” Moon said, “but the figure $30,000 is not what is important. What is important is that our public can actually enjoy a quality of life that is befitting to a gross national income per capita of $30,000.”

The president also mentioned expanding government support for technological innovation, including the construction of K-City in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, where self-driving vehicles will be tested later this year, and building 2,000 smart factories.

“Innovative growth must succeed not only for finding future growth engines for the country but also creating quality jobs,” Moon said. While the government will work toward creating a fair economy that grants no special favors to specific classes or businesses, the president said the main goal is not to restrict business activity.

“Reforming conglomerates is important in the sense of returning transparency and performance back to SMEs and the public,” Moon said.

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