Substantial policies are needed

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Substantial policies are needed

 The government unveiled measures to prevent overwork by couriers and delivery workers. The union representing delivery workers estimate 15 deaths this year alone from overwork. Their deaths mostly cannot be covered by industrial accident insurance since their employment status excludes them from social security. According to government survey, delivery workers on average work for 12.1 hours a day, dealing with 250 deliveries.

The government proposes prevention of overwork, expansion of their social security and a crackdown on unfair practices. Companies are recommended to cap daily work hours and restrict late-hour and weekend deliveries. The government will also increase enrollment to industrial accident insurance for delivery workers whose subscription stops at 18.5 percent currently, and establish guidelines on their extra packaging work that often provokes labor conflict.

Although the measures could be the first step toward better working conditions for delivery workers, they lack binding force. They are mostly proposals for long-term changes. The tricky issues such as increases in hiring or delivery rates have been set aside.

A cut in work hours can directly affect the income of delivery workers. Due to intense competition in the distribution industry, delivery service fees workers can earn 800 won ($0.72) per package last year, a decrease from 1,200 won in 2002. If their work load also decreases, workers may complain. Companies mostly running deficit cannot afford higher labor costs. The government’s proposal to sustain delivery rates by correcting unfair practices by large clients like home shopping channels also cannot be a fundamental solution.

Consumers must change their attitudes toward delivery, as well. According to a state survey, more than seven out of 10 answered they were willing to tolerate delays or a raise in delivery fees to help working conditions for delivery workers. A dialogue body for social consensus should deal with the topic when it addresses delivery workers issues next month.

A half of a century has passed since the death of iconic labor activist Jeon Tae-il. Still, labor market is laden with issues of discrimination and lessening jobs for the unskilled and low-paid workers. Protection for gig laborers due to the rise of platform businesses adds to their pain. The government and ruling party plan to earmark 1.8 trillion won in next year’s budget to help such workers in new fields. Budgetary spending must be more fine-tuned so that needy workers can receive more assistance.

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