A policy backfires

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A policy backfires

Shortly after taking office in May 2017, President Moon Jae-in visited the Incheon International Airport Corporation and declared the start of an era of no contract workers in the public sector. Contract workers at the public company were jubilated at the hope that their dream of becoming full-time workers would be realized soon. In Korea, contract workers usually work the same hours as their counterparts on permanent payrolls yet receive relatively poor treatment.

Two and a half years since that presidential vow, Statistics Korea announced Tuesday that over the past year, the number of full-time workers decreased by 350,000, while contract workers increased by 860,000. In other words, the share of full-time jobs shrank to 63.6 percent from 67 percent whereas the share of contract workers rose to 36.4 percent from 33 percent. The size and share of contract workers across industries was the largest ever — ironically created by a government that put top priority on converting contract workers into full-time employees.

The government got busy trying to obscure the news — to the extent that the head of the statistics office demanded reporters at a press briefing not directly compare this year’s data with last year’s, citing an alteration in the survey method. We wonder why the statistics office presents data that cannot be compared to other times — as data must. Even if you use the same calculation as last year’s, non-full-time workers have increased by at least 360,000 — more than 10 times last year’s increase. Obviously, the government doesn’t want to see reality.

The government’s relentless push to turn contract workers into full-time workers has backfired at a number of public corporations. Seoul Metro saw employees get sneaky in trying to upgrade their relatives’ part-time status, and Korea Expressway Corporation faced demands from contract workers to directly hire them instead of going through agencies. In the meantime, our private sector is increasingly losing jobs primarily due to the government’s “income-led” growth policies.

Most of the jobs created by this government have been temporary or part-time jobs for people aged 60 and above. Quality jobs for people in their 30s and 40s are declining fast. Yet the government says our economy is moving in the right direction. In a slump, fiscal inputs are needed, but quality jobs are created by the private sector. The government must change course to revitalize the economy before it’s too late.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 30, Page 34
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