Speech by Minister Lee Jae-kap at the 108th International Labour conference
Mr. President and distinguished delegates!
Let me begin by extending sincere congratulations on the 100th anniversary of the ILO. I am very much privileged to join this historic moment of the Centenary Session of the Conference.
Following the 1944 Philadelphia Declaration with a famous statement that labor is not a commodity, the ILO has been working hard to realize social justice and decent work for all in the past century.
To achieve this goal, the ILO has adopted 189 Conventions and 205 Recommendations, as well as the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
Through these instruments the organization has done its best to reflect rising demands for new norms as our world of work changes.
On the other hand, the ILO has provided assistance to the developing countries in order to ensure creation of decent jobs, strengthen social protection, and promote fundamental rights at work and social dialogue.
I am sure that every single effort of the ILO has contributed tremendously to the enhancement of quality of life for people around the world today.
Nevertheless, we are facing challenges which must be tougher than the ones we have already managed to address.
Rapid technological advancement, represented as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the greater flexibility in terms of working hours and places, and greater diversity in employment types are the new trends we have not seen before.
As the ILO’s future of work report highlights the need for responses to such developments, the Korean government is putting efforts to cope with the changes, to realize an inclusive labor market, and to seek human-centered job policies.
First, the government has adopted Vocational skills development innovation measures and Ten agenda to invest in people to help workers and businesses remain competitive in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The government plans to integrate the current two separate training account schemes for job-seekers and employees into a single life-long vocational training account system for all working people to offer more training opportunities throughout people’s working lives.
To remove barriers to education and training opportunities, it plans to build an online smart training platform, to provide high school education to all free of charge, and to expand college education opportunities for employed high school graduates.
The government has also established a national plan for skills development reflecting the changing demand of the industry. Training in new technologies for employees will also be expanded to help them become more adaptable.
Second, the government plans to introduce an unemployment assistance programme from July of 2020. This is a policy response to address workers in diverse employment types, who are not covered by the current employment insurance scheme, including the rising number of platform workers.
Thus, the social safety net against unemployment will become stronger. Unemployment assistance will be paid to job-seekers whose income level is below 50 percent of the median figure, for a period of up to six months, along with intensive employment support services, such as vocational counseling, vocational training and job placement, for vulnerable people.
Third, in response to the changing environment, the government is increasing its investment in improving public employment services to strengthen reemployment support for vulnerable groups.
It has adopted an AI-based online employment services to strengthen job placement services at Job centers, and has brought innovation to the process of claiming unemployment benefits.
Along with the introduction of an unemployment assistance scheme, the government plans to make public employment service more accessible, and strengthen in-depth counseling and case management,in order to ensure that quality employment service are available for all citizens.
Last but not least, the government is working continuously to achieve a society which values human aspects of labor.
Since taking office, the new government has raised the minimum wage to address income inequality. It implemented policy to reduce working hours by limiting weekly overtime work to 12 hours, and drastically reducing the scope of exceptions from working hour regulations.
This has led to a large decline in both the proportion of low wage workers and the wage gap among workers. The annual working hours is also dropping.
In addition, the new government has set the ratification of the core ILO Conventions as one of priorities in national agenda, and has engaged in social dialogue since last year. On May 22, the government announced its position regarding its plan for the ratification of the ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association(C. 87 and C. 98) and Forced labor (C.29) although the dialogue has failed to reach a social consensus.
Mr. President and distinguished delegates,
The Centenary Declaration which will be adopted by this Conferencewill be a historic document that inherits the spirit of the Philadelphia Declaration. The Korean government will be an active participant in the Conference discussions, helping to ensure that the ILO and member countries mark a milestone for preparing for the next hundred years.
In a world more connected than ever with reduced time and space constraints driven by technological advancement, labor issues cannot be addressed by one country alone.
I hope that the ILO continues to play a pivotal role in dealing with the changes and shaping a better future that is advantageous for all generations.