Jan. 1, 2018
My dear fellow citizens, workers and employers of Korea,and colleagues of the Ministry of Employment and Labor!
The eventful year of 2017 has gone, and the year 2018 has begun.
I wish you all a happy new year filled with new hopes.
Last year we made strenuous efforts to transform employment and labor administration.
'Field service' was our top priority above all else.
We listened carefully to the voices of workers and employers and the general public through field labor offices all over the country.The people showed a huge response, too, with the number of counseling cases and complaints and suggestions over the course of 17 days exceeding 6,200.
As of December 1st, 2017, 66% of the public suggestions had been reflected in policies and 82% of the complaints had been resolved.
Emphasizing innovation in labor inspection services, I met and talked with labor inspectors soon after taking office.
I also visited all of the Ministry's 12 affiliated institutions in person and received business briefings from them with the intention of actively reforming irrational practices in the workplace.
We severely punished unfair labor practices and ordered those illegally using dispatched workers to directly employ them.
In order to relieve income polarization in our society and improve workers' quality of life, we raised the minimum wage by the largest amount ever and are actively pushing ahead with the project to convert public-sector non-regular workers to regular status.
And in order to underpin job-centered national administration, we established and unveiled the 'five-year job policy roadmap' jointly with other relevant government agencies and thereby set out the Moon Jae-in government's blueprint for job policy.
The concerted all-out efforts made by all of us over the past one year have paved the way to realizing income-driven growth and a society that respects labor.
Moreover, the people's expectations of our Ministry have grown, as shown by a recent opinion survey on confidence in public institutions in which our Ministry was ranked among the top.
However, we still have a long way to go.
Deep in my heart, I remember the promises I made to my fellow citizens and MOEL colleagues when I was sworn in last August, and I know there are many tasks not yet accomplished.
Industrial sites are still dangerous. Among other things, a series of tower crane accidents occurred last year, making all people feel terrible.
The legal amendment to reduce working hours is being delayed.
There is continuing conflict among stakeholders, including labor and management, in the process of executing major labor policies. Restoring social dialogue remains an unsolved issue.
The employment situation would not be easy, either.
As a growing number of people in their late 20s are entering the labor market, there is a great deal of concern that the employment situation of young people will not improve significantly.
Job problems that might be brought about by the fourth industrial revolution and demographic change are no longer a thing of the future.
Workers, job seekers and business managers!
If last year was the year we paved the way to realizing the Moon Jae-in government's governance philosophy, this year must be the year we achieve concrete results and do our utmost to spread those results.
In particular, I think the year 2018 will be an important year that marks a watershed in determining the success or failure of the Moon Jae-in government's five years.
This year the Ministry of Employment and Labor will put all its energy into pursuing policies that can change people's lives and give them actual help.
First, we will strive to protect workers' rights and interests and entrench fair rules to prevent the balance at the workplace level from tipping to one side or the other.
For a start, we will faithfully conduct guidance and inspection activities to ensure strict compliance with the minimum wage applicable this year.
We will never neglect to resolve the difficulties self-employed people, SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs might face due to the minimum wage increase.
It is important to support the growth of SMEs which account for 99% of companies and 88% of employment in Korea.
We will make every effort to provide SMEs with job stability funds, a 'minimum wage troubleshooter' (i.e. a solution to address the cost burden caused by the minimum wage hike).
We will reduce the burden of insurance premiums on employers by drastically expanding the scope of those eligible for the Durinuri social insurance premium subsidy program and raising the level of subsidy.
We will also thoroughly prepare a plan to improve the minimum wage system.
Precious lives should not be lost in accidents similar to those that happened last year.
We will reduce industrial accidents by conducting workplace guidance and inspection activities more thoroughly.
To ensure that the 'serious industrial accident prevention measures' and 'tower crane accident prevention measures' already announced do not remain just measures, we will do our best to take follow-up actions, such as amending related laws.
It is the wish of the whole nation to reduce long working hours.
We will make all-out efforts to secure the passage of the working time reduction bill and strive to guarantee workers the right to rest by reforming the holiday and leave systems and improving work culture.
We will protect human rights at work by eliminating human rights violations in the workplace, such as unfair labor practices, sexual harassment and abuses of power known as 'gabjil'.
To this end, we will enhance labor inspectors' expertise as law enforcement officers in the field of labor, for example by hiring public officials for employment and labor specialist positions for the first time.
In order to remove unreasonable discrimination between regular and non-regular workers, we will completely overhaul the system of correcting discrimination against non-regular workers.
We will come up with a plan to improve industrial relations laws and systems within this year and thereby strive to expand the basic labor rights of vulnerable workers.
These labor issues cannot be solved by any one party's efforts alone.
We will promote social dialogue and wisely tackle complex labor issues through dialogue at multiple levels, namely, regional, sectoral and workplace levels.
Second, we will expand 'decent job opportunities'.
To begin with, we will execute the jobs budget of more than 19 trillion won as soon as possible in the first half of this year to respond preemptively to job problems and to allow the effects of government support to be actually felt by the people.
We will strengthen tailored support for each target group, such as youth, women and new middle-aged people, while at the same time keeping our eyes and ears open to the ground.
Competition for jobs among young people is expected to intensify as the echo generation, the children of the baby boom generation, is beginning to enter the labor market in earnest.
The number of young people in their late 20s will continue to grow until 2021, so until then, our policy focus should be kept on youth employment.
We will come up with youth employment measures sufficiently reflecting the opinions of young people as soon as possible after gathering wisdom from various experts.
We will revamp the eligibility requirements of the three main package programs for young people, that is, the young job-seekers' allowance, the additional youth employment subsidy for SMEs and the mutual aid program for youth, to meet the needs of young people and will also expand the scale of such support.
This year 'publicly-run hub childcare centers' will be set up in three places for the first time.
The centers will operate in a way that benefits the children of low-income dual-earner couples first and foremost, thereby helping such couples work without worrying about child care.
We will make active efforts to establish such centers in more regions next year.
We plan to discover and foster locally specialized social enterprises to enable retired workers, including new middle-aged people, to catch two rabbits, that is, finding work and making social contributions, at the same time.
We will also innovate employment services.
In order to strengthen employment services which are Job Centers' original function, we will increase related personnel and redesign the work process.
We will reform the unemployment recognition system which simply checks whether jobless people engage in job search activities or not into one that puts emphasis on reemployment.
We will help job seekers get decent jobs by improving the employment success package program which is our Ministry's flagship program.
Third, we will prepare for the future systematically.
Changes in the world of work, such as the emergence or extinction of jobs, are intensifying and the competencies required for jobs are changing with the progress of the fourth industrial revolution.
It is necessary to establish an employment safety net and develop human resources that can respond to these changes.
For the first time in 22 years since the introduction of the unemployment benefit scheme, we will raise the level of unemployment benefits from 50% of the ordinary wage to 60% and extend the benefit duration by 30 days.
We will change the eligibility requirements for social insurance coverage into income-based ones and continue to consider ways to fundamentally remove the blind spot not covered by social insurance.
We will radically improve the vocational training system in terms of training content and methods to respond to the fourth industrial revolution.
We will reorganize Korea Polytechnics' courses to focus on new technologies and will expand support for training designed to develop human resources that can lead the fourth industrial revolution.
We will expand vocational training's role as a social safety net so that it can be a stepping stone toward employment for vulnerable groups who have difficulty finding work.
We will enhance support for low-income families, out-of-school youth and career-break women to prevent them from failing to receive training because of a lack of money or opportunity.
Meanwhile, we will also actively set up employment infrastructure to prepare for the future. For example, we will conduct a pilot fact-finding survey on new types of employment, such as online platform workers.
In the Doctrine of the Mean, a Chinese classic, there is a saying that goes, "Only those who do things with their utmost sincerity can transform themselves and the world around them (唯天下至誠爲能化).”
The quote emphasizes that one should make one's best and devoted efforts even in little things.
Our Ministry's duties require especially much devotion.
If we are to implement policies for workers and job seekers suffering from job problems, we need to care greatly about them.
Only when our devotion and efforts reach the people, will workplace practices change and more people be able to find happiness through work.
MOEL's role has been growing since the launch of the Moon Jae-in government.
You are assuming a key role in providing better jobs to people and realizing a society that respects labor.
I hope you perform your duties with pride and passion.
Thank you again for your hard work. I wish you and your families a happy new year full of good health and luck.
Minister of Employment and Labor