Irregular worker issue attached to social welfare debate
Up to half the workforce are irregular workers, with lower salaries, few to no benefits and no job security
Grand National Party Supreme Council member Chung Doo-un, second from left, raises the issue of irregular workers during a Supreme Council meeting at the Grand National Party headquarters Jan. 31. (Photo by Tak Ki-hyung)
The parliamentary debate over social welfare is now showing signs of expanding into labor issues, including the issue of irregular workers.
With the number of irregular workers ranging from 5.7 million (33 percent of the salaried work force) according to the Statistics Korea to 8.6 million (50.4 percent of the salaried workforce) according to the Korea Labor Institute, the belief is spreading that the irregular worker issue is one affecting a large part of society. There are calls coming from the National Assembly that the resolution of the issue of irregular workers, a cause of social polarization and one of its biggest victims, is itself welfare.
It seems the opposition parties, including the Democratic Party, which announced support universal welfare, are the first to take up the issue of irregular workers. Democratic Party leader Sohn Hak-kyu said in a radio address Jan. 18 that resolving labor issues, including irregular workers and low wages, was a core task of “universal welfare,” and during a party Supreme Council meeting Monday, he said the simultaneous handling of education, labor rights and welfare was a characteristic of the “creative welfare state” the Democratic Party favored. An aide explained that Sohn thinks for the welfare state to continue, it needs a core group of support, and that group can only be laborers.
Democratic Party Supreme Council member Chung Dong-young, who started calls for expanding welfare by introducing a tax on the wealthy, has recently been taking on labor issues in earnest, moving to the Environment and Labor Committee and seeking the advice of Korea Labour and Society Institute Director Kim Yu-seon.
An aide said, “Chung believes that without resolving the polarization of workplaces and the irregular worker issue, it will be difficult for the opposition to take power in 2012. He said Chung would continue to expand exchanges with labor.”
On Jan 27, the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party (DLP) and People Participation’s Party (PPP) held a joint debate to find a joint solution to irregular worker issues. This was a notable event in the continuation of the discussion over the irregular worker issue.