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Blue House to change how worker stats are counted

But opposition thinks it’s a political move to ease economy fears
Aug 30,2018
The presidential committee on job creation has proposed changing the way statistics are measured to increase the number of people who are counted as regular workers.

If the change is made, it will be the biggest shake up in Korean statistics since the current definition of irregular workers was set in 2002.

The presidential committee on Wednesday suggested the need to change the way that regular employees who have reduced working hours due to personal reasons - ranging from health problems to pregnancy and academic pursuits - are categorized.

Under the current guidelines, those people are counted as irregular workers, but the committee wants to include that group in the count for regular workers.

The decision has apparently been agreed upon by all three parties - labor, business and the government - especially since today’s labor market situation is not the same as it was a decade ago when the rules were last adjusted.

The change is set to be implemented from August next year.

The committee said that labeling such employees as irregular employees only contributes to the misconception that working on reduced hours is bad, and thus contributes to a negative perception on the push to balance family life and work.

According to the committee, the number of regular employees who are labeled as irregular workers due to shorter hours has more than doubled from 1.23 million in 2008 to 2.66 million last year.

“In a situation where the irregular worker problem is so serious, it is important to properly calculate the statistics that are the foundation for policy establishment,” said Rhee Mok-hee, vice chairman of the presidential job committee.

The change is part of a larger government effort to try to have society adopt more flexible working hours, especially since people with personal reasons for reducing their hours, including health complications and pregnancy, are often pressured to leave their company.

After leaving the company, it can be difficult to get a new job - allowing employees to stay on with reduced hours avoids the problem.

However, there are growing concerns over the proposal as it came just days after the Moon Jae-in government appointed a new Statistics Korea commissioner.

This was a move seen by many as an attempt to make job-related statistics more favorable to the government.

On Tuesday, during a visit to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Kang Shin-wook, the new commissioner, told reporters that, earlier this year, he proposed a report on new survey methods in regard to household income.

This report was reportedly the one that Moon based his comment that the minimum wage hike has had a positive effect on, despite reports from Statistics Korea indicating the widening income gap.

The decision to replace the statistics head at such a favorable time has caused an outcry from the opposition parties, who believe that the commissioner was replaced for purely political purposes.

Kang on Tuesday said he is not saying that the previous methods were wrong, but stressed that the report he gave to the Blue House is more detailed.


BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]