Permanent job problem
The author is a business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The presidential office and ruling party have entirely missed the point of the controversy surrounding Incheon International Airport Corporation’s job plans. Hwang Deok-soon, secretary for job creation, said the plan to upgrade temporary hires in airport security to permanent employees at the country’s main gateway poses no danger to future job openings. Democratic Party Rep. Kim Doo-kwan took it a step further. He said it was more unfair that recruits hired via regular procedures should be paid more than double what irregular hires receive just because they had learned more and passed tests. They accused opposition parties and conservative media for misleading the public and stirring unnecessary conflict.
DP lawmaker Ko Min-jung claimed that the critics overlooked the difficulties of contract workers who have to suffer from discrimination. But the public fury over the airport corporation affair is not about permanent versus non-permanent positions. The essence is that the plan goes against the fair opportunity principle so ardently championed by President Moon Jae-in.
Based on the job openings at public enterprises in the first half, an applicant competes with 128.9 for a single position. How can they understand that someone who had bypassed such fierce competition is awarded with the same payroll terms as those who had went through the rigorous process? The eligibility for status promotion is also ridiculous. Any contract workers fortunate enough to be hired around the time — May 12, 2017 — when President Moon Jae-in visited the airport shortly after election and declared zero-irregular positions at the public sector would be moved to the permanent payroll.
The airport corporation has been under pressure because Moon singled out the workplace as a symbol of his campaign promise to reduce irregular positions. It is unfair that people hired on a non-permanent basis are being discriminated against by ways related to wage, welfare and other work terms. Nobody will argue against improving their working conditions. But to meet the president’s “zero” policy, state employers have been obsessed with the headline number instead of finding effective ways to improve their working conditions. Irregular workers are on strike at the national level as if permanent positions are the only options. Some workplaces have even exploited the arrangement to hand out permanent jobs to their relatives and family members.
The windfall will be restricted to them because job openings in the public sector will inevitably be scaled back. The security personnel at Incheon airport eligible for permanent positions are on average 30. Since 1,900 of them have been promised the position until the retirement age of 60, the quota for new security recruits will stay very limited for the next 30 years. A permanent position at public companies is secure for life and earns greater pay regardless of performance. Because of increased labor costs, new openings will be cut.
The young can feel they have been ripped off. When considering those between jobs, 26.3 percent of the working population under the age of 30 is unemployed as of May. The number is a record high. Although they agree that contract workers are socially disadvantaged, the young, unemployed claim they also need greater opportunities and attention.
In his inauguration speech three years ago, President Moon Jae-in promised to deliver a society where opportunities are equal, processes fair and results just. But many of the processes under his government have not been fair. Can results be just if processes are not?