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Tapping the brakes

Jan 23,2018
The Blue House reconfirmed its position on the controversial minimum wage hike. Jang Ha-sung, chief of the Blue House Policy Office, underscored that the government-driven wage increase is a small step to help our hopeless younger generations pursue their dreams. He also said that the administration has the firm conviction that increased labor cost must not be borne by small and midsize business owners alone. We appreciate the government’s determination to find a breakthrough in the hardships facing the self-employed suffering from our youth’s high jobless rates and slowed consumption.

But the problem is that there is a huge gap between government policy and reality. In their field tours on Thursday, government ministers had to witness the deepening concerns and anxieties of restaurant owners. When they complained about the drastic increase of the minimum wage, their employees joined the chorus by expressing their uncomfortable feelings from government-enforced wage hikes regardless of profits. Upon listening to their grumbling, the senior officials had to leave them with heavy hearts. Government officials’ warm-hearted suggestion that small business owners take advantage of a job security fund and rent fee cuts was only met by their grievances.

It is regrettable that the Blue House once again highlighted the need for the wage hike. No one objects to its high-minded ideas. But more importantly, the government must devise effective policies. No matter how good-hearted the administration tries to be, it must amend its policies if the side effects are undesirable. Fortunately, Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon will begin his monthly report to President Moon Jae-in. As head of the government’s economic policy, he must find effective ways to coordinate policies among related ministries. The government’s top-down instruction, based on “sharing the burden among parties involved for the cost of wage increases,” has only backfired.

The government must include workers’ bonuses and other allowances in their minimum wages as developed countries have been doing, and slow down the pace of wage hikes amounting to a 54.5 percent increase in three years. The Blue House must persuade labor unions opposing such moderation. That’s the only way to help our dreamless young generation find hope once again.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 22, Page 30