‘No irregular workers’ backfiredPopulist policy is bound to bring about adverse consequences. The government which had pushed hard to eliminate irregular positions in the public sector has caused lasting damage.
According to Leaders’ Index which studies corporate activities, new recruits through regular openings at 35 public corporations totaled 5,917 last year, nearly halved or down 47.3 percent from 11,238 in 2019. In 23 public companies out of the 35, or nearly two thirds, the number of recruits decreased.
It could be attributed to the worsening management conditions amid the pandemic. But the Moon Jae-in administration’s aggressive policy to cut the number of irregular workers — part-time jobs and contract workers who have disadvantages in pay compared to their full-time regular counterparts — may have played a bigger part in the drastic reduction of new hires in the public sector.
Public companies could not afford to hire new workers after the forced conversion of irregular workers to permanent status because of higher personnel cost than ever before. In the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), which was the most active in the conversion, new hires decreased by 40.9 percent to 1,047 in 2021 from 1,772 in 2019.
It all started with the Incheon International Airport Corp. Upon his inauguration in May 2017, President Moon Jae-in chose the public company as the first site for his official schedule as the president to declare the end of irregular work in the public sector. At that time, the CEO of the airport authority vowed to convert 10,000 employees, including agency workers, to the permanent status.
The move immediately irked young people whose chance for a new position at one of the most reliable government enterprises was lost. Since the payroll and the budget for labor cost are restricted, a bulky conversion of irregular workers has led most public enterprises to cut hiring.
The phenomenon has been more serious with state-invested research centers. According to the National Research Council of Science & Technology, new recruitments that averaged 637 across 25 umbrella institutions in 2016 fell to 487 in 2018. The levels have not improved since. Research competitiveness may have waned as contractual researchers were able to get the full-time jobs which had only been won through a fierce competition. That can cause a serious problem in conducting high-level research at government-run institutions for science and technology.
The presidential candidates must become aware of the adverse effects from the government’s ideology-based push for no-irregular work policy in the public sector. The policy only helped distress a countless number of young people looking for a stable job in the public sector despite the original goal of removing irregular workers in the job market. Half-baked policies always end up paining the people.