Unfair job conversion

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Unfair job conversion

The author is the head of the economic policy team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The number of employees at coveted public corporations has increased by 35 percent during the past five years of the Moon Jae-in administration. According to Alio, a state website that releases information on public corporations, the number of employees at 371 public companies increased from 328,479 in 2016 to 443,570 in the fourth quarter of 2021. The margin of increase is twice that of the Park Geun-hye administration.

The main cause of the increase in the public sector is the Moon administration’s conversion of irregular employees to regular employment. According to an analysis on 344 public corporations by a lawmaker, 102,138 irregular employees were converted to regular positions in the Moon administration, as of last July.

The conversion of non-regular workers at public corporations to regular positions, one of Moon’s campaign promises, was implemented amid controversy. No one would argue against the idea if the conversion was based on fair rules, but their employment makes many wonder whether they were offered regular positions based on competency and qualification.

Of the 102,138 regular employees, only 21,147 were selected through “competitive recruitment,” a process similar to that of open recruitment. But 89,991 were converted to regular positions through document screening and simple interviews. That means only one in five were hired for regular positions through proper competition.

It is hard for the conversion to avoid criticism because it is a matter of luck, as the irregular employees who were lucky enough to stick around at the time when Moon promised the conversion benefitted. Above all, when irregular employees became regulars without proper competition, jobseekers who studied hard won’t find it fair.

The “zero irregular employment” at public corporations is a policy expected to have side effects from the beginning. It adds management burdens by increasing the labor cost at public corporations. It was good for the people who benefitted from the program, but it made the job opening for young people narrower. In fact, the net profit of all public corporations fell by a third from 15.7 trillion won ($12.4 billion) in 2016 to 5.3 trillion won in 2020. The total number of new hires in public corporations, which rose to 41,336 in 2019, dropped to 27,034 last year. Conflicts with existing regular workers who oppose the conversion and call it a “free ride” still exist. That is an aspect of inequality, unfairness, and injustice revealed in the Moon administration that declared, “The opportunity will be equal, the process will be fair, and the result will be just” in 2017.
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