• Yun Jung Ji-hye
  • 승인 2007.04.06 20:05
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Some day ago, an announcer made it known about his voluntary resignation and expressed his will to become a free-lancer.  Likewise, an entertainer or announcer who doesn’t belong to any broadcasting industry is a representative free-lancer.  Until now, medical personnel should conduct medical treatment only in a medical institution where they are employed, however they can work as part time employees in a hospital anywhere beginning this year thanks to laws being altered. 

Therefore, a doctor can become a free-lancer.  There are free-lancers in various fields such as food consultants, branch managers and insurers just to name a few.  A free-lancer is a worker who doesn’t belong to any specific group and makes contacts according to each business venture.  This person can also be called a one-man enterprise or free agent.

The field of free-lancer is getting bigger and bigger.  According to statistics in 2007, free-lancers are an increasing trend, and currently there are approximately 200,000 free-lancers actively working.  There are 52,000 free-lancers from various fields registered at the Seoul Free-lancer Group. These figures have increased more than 20 percent annually since 1996.

Why Do People Choose to Be Free-lancers? 

One reason free-lancers are increasing is the circumstance of the labor market.  The concept of lifelong enterprises disappearing causes many workers to consider leaving the enterprise and become a free-lancer.  Many employees worry about retirement guarantees from their current organization and think they may need a part time job or business on the side to insure a stable retirement.  According to a job-link employment portal site, 68.5 percent of workers plan to have a side business as a free-lancer business during the weekend or after leaving their office during the week. 

This is also associated with a combined word "freeter" that is the word "free" and "arbeiter" from Japan and refers to people who take a part time job and are concerned about a dilettante life. 

Peter Ferdinand Drucker, a management expert said, "The one-man enterprise is the general trend and the knowledge workers all know about."  Moreover, Richard Samson of the Eranova Institute viewed, "The large corporations are disappearing and free-lancers or individual enterprises will take up the greater part of a labor market and labor unions will disappear in the future.”

What Are the Key Features of Free-lancers?

Merits of a free-lancer include independence when people work, flexibility of working hours and income above the average.  Furthermore, from an enterprise standpoint, they benefit by employing free-lancer than regular workers because they don't incur management operating expenses for free-lancers.

When workers leave their existing work place, they are faced with various problems.  For example, their skills and know-how are no longer required and they must find work and business affairs on their own.  As well, there are legal problems.  Though free-lancers are increasing rapidly, the exact legal definition for them is not clear.  Therefore, the law can’t protect free-lancers. 

An officer for the National Tax Service said, "The term ‘free-lancer’ is not prescribed in tax law and the free-lancer is involved as an individual manager, but classifying free-lancers into specific occupations is so difficult in actuality.  They only declare their composite income tax involving income from immovable and don't report the amount of their earned income as free-lancer's income. 

Issues between Free-Lancers and the Labor Market

According to some studies completed in 2000 in the United State, an occupation lifetime period is 25 years on average.  It means the lifelong occupation will disappear and most workers will find a new work place, other vocation or side job.  This changeable labor circumstance influences workers. 

Likewise, as the free-lancer becomes more common, it has an effect on the labor market.  Recently, employees turn to free-lancing based on their special skills and professionalism. Eventually they begin working for themselves and many other workers become interested as well, thus many workers don’t want to work for any particular enterprise.

Lim Jong-ryul, a professor in the division of law of Sungkyunkwan University said, "If a worker is regarded as white and an independent enterpriser as black, a free-lancer could be regarded as gray.  Because free-lancers have both features, prescribing them as an independent enterpriser is a matter of grave concern.  As he said, increasing free-lancers builds up the trend of society and create new structures in the labor market.

Some scholars predict the "21st century is the age of a free-lancer."  The increasing of free-lancers is a matter of course in changeable and unsettled labor market.  However the change is quite within the realms of possibility. 
One of scholars said “We have no choice but to prepare for this age. 

Therefore, we should pay attention to free-lancers and carry out reforms in various fields such as law, wage systems and tax systems as the needs arise. We should study the issues of free-lancers and their effects, and make institutional changes to accommodate their activities.  Above all, enacting a legal system considers an important issue.”  It is time to understand the perceptions of various labor changes in a new light.


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