12 June 2013 12:00pm, Geneva Switzerland
Mr. President and distinguished delegates,
It is my sincere pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you today at the ILC.
Indeed it is clear that a ‘decent job’ is a critical element of individual well-being and happiness and, at a broader level, precondition for sustainable growth across an economy.
This is especially true given the realities and new dynamics presented by our era of jobless growth and employment insecurity.
In this context, the Park Geunhye administration of Korea has placed its specific focus on improving the employment rate, not the economic growth rate, as the government’s guiding indicator.
The government plans to increase the employment rate of Korea up to 70% while at the same time maintaining and improving the quality of employment.
As is relatively well-known, the Korean labor market is, very generally, characterized by a high percentage of male workers who serve as their family’s only bread-earner.
The intense work demands on and short work life of Korean males admittedly has had an impact on their qualities of life.
At the same time, many female workers experience disruptions in their careers due to such important responsibilities as childbirth and childcare.
Within this context they find it difficult to achieve an adequate balance between work and family.
Furthermore, many workers are forced to retire in their early 50’s. At this stage in their life, it can be hard for people in this age bracket to find employment suitable to their experience and skills.
In summary the Korean government faces challenges related to limited employment capacity within the economy, lack of diversity in types of employment, predominance of full-time jobs, long working hours and a relatively short work life.
Faced with those challenges, the Korean government will initiate labor market reform to significantly improve the employment environment and atmosphere at both the quantitative and qualitative levels.
First, in order to increase the job opportunities for workers, new jobs will be created through active investment in the ‘creative economy’ as well as new business ventures in the fields of IT and technology.
Second, policy measures will be initiated to gradually reduce working hours through market-wide job sharing and improved work-life balance.
Decent part-time jobs will be created first in the public sector, followed by similar measures in the private sector.
To this end, policy efforts and subsidies will be directed towards creating decent part-time jobs.
Those part-time jobs are expected to help female workers better coordinate their work and family lives and maintain their jobs through marriage, childbirth and childcare.
Quality part-time jobs could also serve as a gateway to the labor market for many married women who have long remained outside of the labor force.
Third, the Korean government will improve the employability of workers from vulnerable groups including youth and the elderly by implementing active labor market policies.
The policies will be customized to address the specific needs of each target group.
Examples of this would include youth experiencing difficulties in finding a first job as well as elderly persons who have lost their jobs.
To achieve this, labor, management, and government stakeholders signed the Korean Jobs Pact on May 30 this year.
Under the Pact, the tripartite parties promised to fully cooperate with each other and share the costs and burden of increasing the number and improving the quality of jobs.
They also agreed to make continuous efforts to set a minimum wage at socially agreeable level, to provide better opportunities for non-regular workers to attain regular positions and to enhance overall fairness in the distribution of labor income.
By successfully implementing these strategies to achieve a 70% employment rate in cooperation with key economic players, the government aims to restore the proportion of middle income households back to 70%.
Mr. President and distinguished delegates,
I have briefly introduced the new employment policies of the Korean government.
The government will spare no effort to achieve the goal of a 70% employment rate.
We both hope and expect that we will be able to share our success with you in five years time.
Lastly, I hope this conference serves as an opportunity to share experiences and wisdom in labor and employment policies, strengthen friendships among nations, and discuss strategies for our better future.