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Sweeping jobs plan will elevate 200,000 workers

Government hopes to reduce its reliance on contract employment
Oct 26,2017
The Moon Jae-in administration announced a plan on Wednesday to place more than 200,000 contract workers in the government into permanent positions by 2020, fulfilling the president’s campaign pledge to reduce the number of temp jobs in the public sector.

Under the ambitious plan unveiled by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the government will change the employment status of 205,000 contract workers at 853 state-run institutions within the central government.

The transition would affect close to 65 percent of the public sector’s contract workers.

As to why the other 35 percent were excluded from the plan, the ministry said jobs held by these people, about 141,000, were excluded because they were held by people older than their 60s as well as specialized experts like doctors and athletes.

The ministry said the latest measure was made in accordance with a labor policy principle that a job that needs to be sustained continuously should have regular employment conditions rather than contractual terms.

Of the 205,000 workers, 175,000 are short-term employees who work with the government for a certain period of time, and some are dispatched from companies outside the government.

The rest of the group, about 30,000, includes custodians and security guards who are mostly in their 60s.

For those workers, the ministry will make an exception with the age rules, raising the retirement age to 65 to allow them to continue working.

The government estimates there are currently 54,000 contract workers in their 60s in the public sector.

“Across the public and private sector, problems stemming from irregular workers have been aggravating social polarization,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to contract workers, “and hence hampering social integrity to a breaking point that cannot be overlooked anymore.”

By casting blame on contract employment for widening the gap between rich and poor, the government is signaling to the private sector that it should follow suit and reduce its dependence on contract labor.

During the campaign, President Moon promised to tax companies that make “excessive” use of contract employment, arguing that long-term jobs ought to come with full-time employment.

About 32.8 percent of the workforce consists of contract workers, according to government data as of 2016.

For comparison, a full-time worker at a small-to-midsize company makes 52.7 percent of the money earned by a full-time worker at a major conglomerate, while a contract worker at a small-to-midsize business makes 37.4 percent of the money earned by a full-time worker at a major conglomerate.

To minimize potential downsides from the transition, including ballooning expenses, the government said it would eschew seniority-based pay, currently prevalent in the public sector, in favor of a “sustainable and reasonable wage system” that “reflects the principle of equal pay for work of equal value,” the ministry said.

The government said it would unveil details of the system next month.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]