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(News Focus) Moon seeks to boost job security, equality

2017/05/10 00:14

By Yoo Cheong-mo

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) -- Moon Jae-in, who is sure to win the presidential election, is poised to lead the nation's labor policy in a new direction after two decades of worsening job insecurity, widening wage gaps and notoriously long work hours that deteriorated the nation's quality of life to the lowest level of the developed world.

At the top of his labor agenda is reducing the proportion of non-regular workers in the work force and eliminating wage, status and various discriminations against temporary and short-term contract workers.

The number of the nation's non-regular workers was estimated at 6.44 million, or 32.8 percent of all wage and salary workers, as of August last year. Moon has vowed to bring down the ratio to the average of OECD countries, which stood at 11.41 percent as of 2015.

This photo taken on March 19, 2017, shows Moon Jae-in meeting with a group of shipyard workers in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, to listen to their difficulties. (Yonhap) This photo taken on March 19, 2017, shows Moon Jae-in meeting with a group of shipyard workers in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, to listen to their difficulties. (Yonhap)

"Our country ranks fifth in the OECD in terms of the number of non-regular workers, fourth from the bottom in terms of trade union membership and has the third-longest working hours," Moon said on his Facebook page last week.

"Now we should put an end to the sacrifice of our workers. The next government will have to elevate the dignity of working people and the value of labor."

   Specifically, Moon said he will first require government agencies and public institutions to change their temporary positions to permanent ones, impose a fine on employers who are excessively dependent on the use of non-regulars and introduce guidelines on terminating discrimination in pay, insurance and in-house welfare.

According to policy promises announced prior to the election, Moon will seek to prohibit any discrimination of non-regulars by a special law and demand that all workers doing the same job receive the same wages.

A group of civic activists hold a rally in front of the Seoul Government Complex on Jan. 19, 2017, to call for better protection of non-regular workers. (Yonhap file photo) A group of civic activists hold a rally in front of the Seoul Government Complex on Jan. 19, 2017, to call for better protection of non-regular workers. (Yonhap file photo)

Local labor circles have expectations for Moon's promise to create 810,000 jobs in the public sector, including 174,000 positions for civil servants. In the private sector, employers will be asked to abide by labor regulations, including a 52-hour work week and proper use of vacation days, to pave the way for the creation of 500,000 more jobs.

Moon will provide additional support to young people by temporarily expanding the number of jobs in the public sector reserved for them to 5 percent of the total from the current 3 percent.

Moon will also address the problem of job security for middle-aged workers by making it legally harder for companies to carry out layoffs or forced retirement. He will require corporate management to acquire the approval of union leaders when laying off a certain number of workers or more under a voluntary retirement program. Those aged 50 years or older will be allowed to demand their employers cut their working hours, so they can prepare for life after retirement.

On the education and environment fronts, Moon has also pledged to focus on improving the living standards of citizens.

First of all, Moon will push to slash college tuition by half.

"Many of our family heads spend sleepless nights, concerned about ways to pay for their children's tuition and the cost of weddings. We may not be able to solve all their problems, but the country must work to relieve at least some of the burden," he said.

Moon will inject an additional 500 billion won a year to halve college tuition from the current level, build more public dormitories for college students and abolish high school tuition fees.

The sky over Seoul is full of fine dust on May 6, 2017. (Yonhap) The sky over Seoul is full of fine dust on May 6, 2017. (Yonhap)

In the environmental field, Moon will push to significantly curtail fine dust pollution, a major source of health concerns for city dwellers in South Korea, and suspend the construction of new nuclear power plants to free people from fear of a nuclear accident.

He aims to reduce fine dust emissions by 30 percent during his five-year term by suspending old coal-fueled power plants during spring, stopping the construction of new coal-fired plants, speed up the plan to close 10 coal plants that are older than 30 years, and strengthening cooperation with Chinese leaders on the issue.

Fine dust particles are thought to originate from both the western deserts of China and domestic smog sources. They are known to cause various respiratory problems and affect the body's immune system.

In addition, diesel-fueled private vehicles will be banned by 2030 and 70 percent of new vehicle purchases by public institutions will be of environment-friendly cars.

A leader at the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement said, "Moon's plan to sharply reduce fine dust pollution is a concrete and goal-directed policy, though the effects from his environment-friendly car expansion plan will be limited and questionable due to enormous fiscal expenditures."

   ycm@yna.co.kr

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