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Vice-minister’s speech at the 105th International Labour Conference

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6 June 2016 10:30 am, Geneva Switzerland
Mr. Vice-President and distinguished delegates!

I am honored to speak here today on behalf of the Korean government as Vice Minister for Employment and Labor.

The Korean government strongly supports ILO’s effort to implement the “2030 Agenda”by way of focusing on “poverty eradication.”

I hope the 105th session of the International Labour Conference will produce many important policy suggestions for poverty eradication.

I believe that in the fight against poverty, what is most important is “jobs.”

Earned income accounts for the largest share of average household incomes; a household’s risk of ending up in poverty greatly depends on whether they have a working family member.

In this regard, job shortages and in-work poverty have become a serious concern in Korea.

In particular, youth unemployment has been rising over the years, and dualism in the labor market has been widening the gap between workers.

The Korean government has placed the highest priority on boosting economic growth and creating jobs.

For this purpose, the government announced the Road Map toward Achieving a 70% Employment Rate three years ago.

We have also implemented a series of reforms to enhance the fairness and flexibility of the Korean labor market.

The foundation for labor market institutions was laid out in the 1950s, and many features have since remained unchanged despite rapid changes in the environment.

For example, temporary agency employment is tightly controlled in Korea, as it is allowed only for a small subset of industries excluding manufacturing.

We plan to free high-income professionals and older workers from these restrictions, as well as some part of the manufacturing sector.

We are also promoting performance-based personnel management practices in companies, covering recruitment, training, payment, promotion, and contract termination.

Another important issue concerns the long working hours in Korea.

The proposed changes in law will contribute to reducing working hours and increasing flexibility.

At the same time, we intend to strengthen the social safety net by expanding unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation program.

Through these measures, a fair and flexible labor market would help strengthen the job creation potential of the Korean economy.

At this point, we believe that labor market reform is not an option but a necessity for us.

A few months ago, a Go match was held in Seoul between a Korean professional Go player Lee Sedol and a computer program named AlphaGo.

Much to our consternation, the artificial intelligence handsomely defeated the human player.

Another big event is the impending restructuring in key sectors of the Korean economy, including ship-building and shipping.

These and other sectors have been battered by competition from low-cost countries, which are rapidly catching up with Korea in terms of technology as well.

In short, technological advancements are accelerating, and global competition is intensifying.

To meet the challenges posed by growing uncertainties, we need to be nimble and flexible.

Our ability to adapt to changing environments will determine our future.

We believe labor market reform is essential to developing such adapt ability and to creating new jobs.

Of course, there are some people who refuse to face the realities and prefer to maintain the status quo, but such complacency has proved to be an obstacle to growth and jobs in many countries.

Now is the time to pool our wisdom and find positive-sum solutions to the current and future challenges.

Mr. Vice-President and distinguished delegates!

The “2030 Agenda” presents ambitious goals that require cooperation among countries and international organizations around the world.

In addition to the efforts I have mentioned so far, the Korean government will actively reflect the “2030 Agenda” in our national development strategies.

In closing, I hope this Conference will give us a valuable opportunity to share our wisdom and experience.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Last Modifide Date   :   Fri June 17, 2016
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