Turned into a Struggle among the Weak1)
On July 20, the government announced an 8,350 won minimum wage, which is to take effect in 2019. This is a 10.9 percent increase from the 7,530 won on this year. This figure falls short of last year’s rate of 16.4 percent; however, the minimum wage increased on average two to three times each year in comparison to the past conservative government administration. Nevertheless, both employers and employees have voiced complaints. Employers are concerned about the formidable cost of labor, especially small scale businesspersons who are expected to feel the crunch the most. There is a limit to the profit that can be pursued when labor costs rise due to an increase in minimum wage payments, they claim. Employees, on the other hand, protest the widening of item range included in the minimum wage. According to revisions of the Minimum Wages Act passed by the National Assembly on May 28, welfare benefits such as bonuses, meal and transportation expenses also be considered in addition to payment of minimum wage.
Public outcry is loud and dozens of public petitions are being signed, but the response from the government remains the same. “Discussions between labor and management have continued, but both sides are failing to narrow their difference of opinions, so discussions have no choice but to continue at the next meeting”. While both sides of committe were arguing on superficial facts, the purpose of the panel discussion and mutual agreement has been lost. The government has constantly failed to propose a harmonious solution and has postponed the matter in order that employers and workers are forced to quarrel amongst themselves. Problem has turned into a plight among the weak. This is not to say that the panel discussions on the newly set minimum wage were meaningless. The key is to see through the essence. The intrinsic value of the increase to minimum wage is to ensure the livelihood of workers. If this is for putting individuals who cannot help being the weak in contract with employer on equal value, the increase to minimum wage may be reasonable. Meanwhile, the difficulties expressed by employers need to be addressed through alternative policy. For example, there are plenty of mooring items now in the National Assembly. They include policy on real estate rental and credit card fees. Over a piecemeal approach, the government should concentrate on resolving complaints and hardships that society now faces both from the perspectives of employees and employers.
1) Jang Jihyun, “[’Minimum Wage’ Both of Employers and Employees are Dissatisfied with It…Why?] 1. ‘Minimum Wage Set at 8,350 Won’ Why are People Unhappy?”, SBS CNBC, July 21, 2018
Kim Minseong·Park Jinwoo, “[Data Lab] Basis of Controversy: Minimum Wage of 8,350 Won…Cold Words: ‘Inclusion’ ‘Application’ ‘Data’”, The Korea Economy, July 20, 2018