For the Society of Equal Work and Equal Care - A Discussion of Labor Policy and Care Work

※ On Feb. 23, 2017, a forum titled "Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life" was held in the National Assembly of South Korea. It was jointly held by Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women's Trade Union, along with six members of the National Assembly (Insoon Nam, Chairman at Gender Equality and Family Committee / Mihyuk Kwon and Okjoo Song, Democratic Party of Korea / Samhwa Kim and Yonghyeon Shin, People's Party / Jeongmi Lee, Justice Party). Through the five articles on OhmyNews, an online news website in South Korea, we Korean Women Workers Association will report on this forum. In this article, we will cover the presentation by Professor Ja-young Yun (Department of Economics at Chungnam National Univ.), titled "A Discussion of Labor Policy and Care Work."

'Employment rate 70 %' was an agenda for all economic and social policies as one of the major projects in former President Park's government. The agenda's main target group was the women. The assumption of the labor policy that all adult women and men in a family should participate in the labor market trivialized families' demand for care and labor reality under the name of 'socialization' and 'support for 'work-family balance', and thereby made care work invisible and marginalized.

Professor Ja-young Yun started her presentation emphasizing that it was needed to point out the limitations of 'adult worker model' which today's labor policy assumed and to set out the directions and strategies for both genders' equal participation in paid labor and care work. 

▲ Professor Ja-young Yun (Department of Economics at Chungnam National Univ.) in her presentation ⒸKorean Women Workers Association

Adult Worker Model

In many welfare states in Europe, the way both genders contribute to family economy is based on 'adult worker model' in which all adults in a family are expected to participate in full­time paid labor, instead of 'male breadwinner model' where men earn family's main income while women take care of family members. This is based on a belief that participation in labor market will realize equal employment and citizenship for both genders. However, today it is widely considered that the 'adult worker model' has failed. In many European countries, as a result of the model, women became to participate in labor market as part­timers while men worked full­time. 

Then, why did the 'adult worker model' fail? The answer can be found in a way the model handled with care for family members, which had been traditionally done by women. The model considered the best to incorporate care work into the public realm through its commercialization. However, it is impossible to 'completely' commercialize 'care' because of the difficulty to perfectly outsource private and emotional work attached to it. Along with the commercialization of care work, it is needed to think about the ways care work can be shared by women and men, and individuals and society. Under the assumption that individual's 'independence' and 'choice' is valuable, the 'adult worker model' encouraged participation in labor market as an expression of such 'choice'. The problem is whether the rights of choice can be truly guaranteed. Both genders' equal participation in care work is not possible until individuals can be given 'true' freedom to choose care work. Also, given that citizens' participation in paid labor was emphasized as their responsibility for the nation in welfare reform based on the 'adult worker model', it is needed to emphasize not only responsibilities but also rights of care work, including rights to participate in and receive care. 

The adult worker model's labor policy considers the labor market as the realm of 'appropriate' activities. For labor policy based on the welfare to work program, which encourages escapes from poverty through labor, any kinds of paid work, no matter how poorly it is paid, can be regarded as an appropriate activity. In this context, care work is merely seen as an obstacle to women's paid labor, not as the critical resources and processes for human beings' development and social reproduction. While independence is emphasized as the principle of life, care is dubbed the negative meaning of dependence rather than universal values to construct human life and ethics to build alternative society.

▲ Participants at the forum for the presidential election agendas ⒸKorean Women Workers Association

The Invisible, Devalued, and Stratified Care Work 

Increasing part­time jobs, encouraging the use of paid leave, and commercializing social service have been carried out as the ways to support work­family balance. However, paradoxically, it made invisible not only care work in the market, companies, and the other public areas, but also many workers' double responsibility of paid labor and care work. Although the labor market does not prevent women's participation in paid work on the surface, workers are asked to individually solve the problems with responsibilities and rights of care. This can be seen as a dilemma as the policy for work­family balance has helped to  marginalize and undervalue care work in a family, and to reproduce the devalued status of family care and care work in the market.

Part­time jobs, which many women were encouraged to participate in under the former President Park's government, presupposes women's role as a primary care giver for their family members. Through the ideology of work­family balance, not for the women to gain equal socioeconomic status as the men, it reinforces the model of male breadwinner­female secondary income earner. In addition, given that it is needed to ask companies to internalize workers' costs of family care, women's part­time jobs externalize such costs, and thereby do not so much help to support work­family balance not only for the women, but also for the men workers. 

   The parental leave system also helps to make invisible workers' care work and related responsibilities in the workplace. Not all the workers are guaranteed the rights to return to work after their parental leave, and some temporary women workers are excluded from using parental leave. Child care facilities are used to excuse companies from responsibilities for work­family balance, such as to guarantee the employees that they can reduce their working hours, leave work at the regular time, or use working hours more flexibly, if needed. The parental leave system does not contribute to fundamentally changing the working culture and system for the companies to share their responsibilities of care.

   It is regular women workers in the large companies who mainly benefit from the increased availability of the parental leave. Whether the parental leave can be actually used or not largely depends on the labor relations and environment of the company, beyond an individual worker's choice. This is why we cannot dismiss the criticisms that the parental leave system will only benefit relatively more affluent families unless removing the obstacles to using the parental leave at the company level. The low income replacement rate of the leave is criticized as only increasing disadvantages from the use of the parental leave for the low­income families.

For the System of Labor­Care

   To establish the system of labor­care in which both genders equally share paid labor and care work, we need strategies for the 'universal care giver model' as suggested by Nancy Fraser. She insists that care work should be considered to have equal value and status to men's 'paid productive labor'. According to the 'universal care giver model', care work that has been regarded as 'women's work' should be included as the essential requirements for citizenship, thereby should be redistributed as the basic civil activity regardless of one's gender. 

   For the 'universal care giver model' to be successfully established in South Korean society, Professor Yun insists it is stable equity in carrying out care work which should be first guaranteed, especially between genders and classes. It is needed to systematically reinforce the sharing structure of child care, between support for the workers' child care and child care service at the facilities as the former's alternative. Also, it is needed to improve the working conditions at the child care facilities as well as parents' rights to choose and access the child care service. According to Professor Yun, it is also needed for the state to financially support the citizen's family care regardless of his/her participation in paid labor, and to adopt the basic income which guarantees universal income regardless of one's employment likelihood and status.

   Secondly, Professor Yun emphasizes the importance of strategies for the redistribution of time and equal participation in labor market through working hour reduction. It is working hour reduction, she insists, which could serve as a long­term, fundamental strategy for both genders to equally participate in paid labor and care work. In a system which forces working long hours, women's participation in labor market leads to nothing but intensifying women workers' time poverty and pressure. To reduce working hours, she points out, it is needed to change the structure of income incentives which supports  the present system of long working hours. For instance, the rate of overtime pay needs to be increased up to higher than 50%, so that both employer's and employee's incentives for overtime work could be blocked. 


  Thirdly, Professor Yun emphasizes the importance of flexible working hours. It is needed to make working hours more flexible, according to the reality of workers with the responsibility of family care. It is working hour reduction which should be emphasized first in a system of working hours reflecting the family responsibility and labor reality. Five­day six­hour work, rearrangement of working hours, and restrictions on night or holiday work could be an example. To reduce the standard working hours for every worker could be an effective way to support  family care work.

   Lastly, in order to supplement working family's decreased income due to working hour reduction and the paid leave, she suggests policies for less dependence on family for welfare so that individual family's spending could be decreased. This is because, she argues, in a society where the costs for education, housing, and health care are largely dependent on individuals, workers have few options but to voluntarily overwork. 

   At the end of her presentation, Professor Yun points out the meaning of 'economic democratization', which is derived from the second statement of the 119th article in the constitution of Republic of Korea. According to her, 'economic democratization' is based on the capability of nation state which helps the balanced growth and stability of the nation's economy, sustains the redistribution of income at the appropriate level, prevents market's dominance and abuse of economic power, and regulates the balance between economic agents. Given that care work carried out in family is part of the 'economy', it is the spirit of the constitution to support the balanced growth and stability in the economy of both the market and unpaid care work, to help the redistribution of income at the appropriate level, to prevent the market's dominance and abuse of power upon the family and care, and to guarantee the harmony and equal participation for the agents of paid labor and care work.

Posted by KWWA

"Justice of Redistribution and Recognition" to Close the Gender Gap

- Women's Labor Policies Which We Can Practice Right Now

※ On Feb. 23, 2017, a forum titled "Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life" was held in the National Assembly of South Korea. It was jointly held by Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women's Trade Union, along with six members of the National Assembly (Insoon Nam, Chairman at Gender Equality and Family Committee / Mihyuk Kwon and Okjoo Song, Democratic Party of Korea / Samhwa Kim and Yonghyeon Shin, People's Party / Jeongmi Lee, Justice Party). Through the five articles on OhmyNews, an online news website in South Korea, we Korean Women Workers Association will report on this forum. In this article, we will cover the presentation by Jiyeun Chang (Research Fellow at Korea Labor Institute) titled "The Direction and Issues of Women's Labor Policy: From the Perspective of Equalitarianism." 

   In South Korea, on the news of South Korea's worst gender wage gap among the OECD countries, many reply on the internet, "it is no wonder as women's job is much easier to do than men's job." Disrespect and harassment of the women is rampant, and successful women often become the target of jealousy and hatred. Although South Korean government claims to tackle low birthrate problem with work­life balance policy, it turns a blind eye to South Korean men's patriarchal way of lives which they rigidly keep and just suggests the policies promising to give material incentives to the women. 

   To account for all these problems, Dr. Jiyeun Chang suggests 'gender equality' as a keyword, and starts her presentation with a diagnosis that South Korean society cannot be called as an egalitarian society. South Korean women's monthly average wage reaches only 62% of South Korean men's. For this huge gap, some explain that it is 'rational market's choice' which rationally assesses men's and women's work and rewards them based on the assessment. However, such explanation is groundless unless proving that women in South Korea are especially inferior to men compared to those in the other OECD nations. It is also problematic that regardless of their capability South Korean women are given fewer job opportunities than men, and once luckily employed, they are often unfairly rewarded for their work. In South Korea, working women are always suffering from lack of time and given unfavorable reviews for their performance no matter how hard they work at the company. This is because many women are burdened with the duties of caring their family members, and such burdens are hardly decreased even when they are working for wages.

▲Dr. Jiyeun Chang during her presentation

   As the main factor for South Korea's huge gender wage gap, Dr. Jiyeun Chang points out the problem of 'gender discrimination' at the labor market and 'women's burden of care work'. Therefore, she suggests, for the policies for gender equality, we need to first discuss 'what kinds of' equality our policies should be based on. We need theory, not only to persuade the public fighting with social prejudice and discrimination, but also to carry out policies as a means for social change. 

A philosophy to Close the Gender Gap: Justice of Redistribution and Recognition

   According to Dr. Jiyeun Chang, it is strategically useful to make the women treated equally with the men through 'prohibition on gender discrimination', but it has limitations as it cannot change the structural factors such as difference in environment and initial resources each individual is given. Even when we recognize these limitations and make both men and women start at the same line by narrowing down the gender gap especially in their education level, Dr. Chang points out, we cannot solve all the problems women are now facing. To relieve gender inequality, for some occasions women could be treated equally with men while for the other occasions they could be differently based on their uniqueness. As a theoretical framework to realize this ideal, Dr. Chang suggests 'redistribution' and 'recognition', the two dimensions of justice. This is because, she insists, 'gender' is the prototype of a problem which Nancy Fraser called 'the dilemmas of redistribution­recognition.'

   In order to relieve injustice of redistribution, we need to call for the abolition of the economic system which helps keep certain group's vested interests, based on the emphasis on the 'sameness.' To relieve injustice of recognition, we need to call for the different treatment of the women based on the affirmation of gender uniqueness. In this context, recognition should be treated as a problem of 'status', not that of 'identity.' This is because what needs to be recognized is not the identity of certain group, but the status of each group member (as an equal partner in social interaction). Within this theoretical framework, Dr. Chang suggests, it is possible to call for both the equal redistribution of resources and the gender­specific rights, without claiming that women's identity should be given special values. 

   When taking advantage of these two dimensions of justice, 'redistribution' and 'recognition' as a theoretical framework, we can more easily solve the problems in the practice of social policies. First, with this framework, it becomes possible to criticize the situations in which social policies such as tax system or social insurance programs make difficult for the women to escape from their subordinate position in a family or to equally participate in social activities by regarding 'family' as the 'unit' of the policy. As it is generally egalitarians' ideal to make equal as much as possible each social member's economic resources or well-being of life, it is problematic that social policies for this ideal give a penalty to the high­income women's earnings or lead many women to participate in part time labor.

   In addition, Dr. Chang says, a theoretical framework which emphasizes the recognition of gender status can be used as a right guide to help both genders equally participate in the work life balance policies. For instance, when child­care leave is seen from the perspective which emphasizes the recognition of women's identity, it can lead to calling for a guarantee of women's child­care leave as much as possible. However, from the perspective that 'recognition' is needed for both genders to treat each other as an equal partner, rather than asking child­care leave as gender specific rights, it is seen better to design policies to facilitate men's participation in child care. 

▲Specialists and activists from a variety of fields are participating in the forum as discussants.

Women's Labor Policies Which We Can Practice Right Now

   With this justice of 'redistribution' and 'recognition' as a philosophical basis, Dr. Jiyeun Chang suggests five policies for women's employment which can be carried out right now. First, she suggests a system for workers' right to claim the temporary reduction of their working hours. Instead of part time labor with low income and unstable employment, she suggests a system in which workers can choose their work type between full­time and part­time when needed. She sees this system will help to better workers' work life balance and to increase women's employment at the same time.

   Second, she suggests to expand the role of the counseling office for equal employment so that the office can carry out diverse activities including prevention of employment discrimination, beyond just supporting the employment discrimination cases though counseling. She also suggests to appoint the labor monitoring officials for equal employment so that they can work with their professional and continuous administrative power for equal employment. Third, for more effective Affirmative Action, she suggests a wage disclosure system. By relating this system to public enterprises' management assessment and private companies' public supply, we can lead companies to actively participate in the wage disclosure system. 

   Fourth, Dr. Chang suggests to expand the beneficiaries of the childbirth leave to all. For this, it is needed to have the finances for the childbirth leave wages from public health insurance, so that all women who gave a child birth could be the beneficiaries of the childbirth leave. Last, she suggests to expand partner's childbirth leave and to increase men's use of child care leave in order to relieve the division of gender roles. More specifically, we can gradually increase the length of partner's childbirth leave from two to four weeks, and relate partner's wages during childcare leave to the length of leave. For instance, we can increase income replacement rate for a short period of leave while decreasing it for a longer period. In addition, as the other policies to practically support equal employment, she suggests increase of minimum wage and living wages, decrease of non­regular workers, reduction of working hours, and reinforcement of employment safety net.

   Based on discussions in this forum and many women workers' lives and wishes, we Korean Women Workers Association made a list of the women's labor agendas for the upcoming 19th presidential election. We suggest six directions and 20 agendas to change women's labor policy which has been nothing but the policy to utilize women's labor, into the one for gender equality.

   After this presidential election, South Korean society should be a different one. In our new society, respect for workers and gender equality must be upheld as the norm at work.

Posted by KWWA

The 'Candlelight Election' calls for feminist politics: Politics for all needs women's voices!

※ On Feb. 23, 2017, a forum titled "Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life" was held in the National Assembly of South Korea. It was jointly held by Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women's Trade Union, along with six members of the National Assembly (Insoon Nam, Chairman at Gender Equality and Family Committee / Mihyuk Kwon and Okjoo Song, Democratic Party of Korea / Samhwa Kim and Yonghyeon Shin, People's Party / Jeongmi Lee, Justice Party). Through the five articles on OhmyNews, an online news website in South Korea, we Korean Women Workers Association will report on this forum. This article will cover the forum's first presentation by Professor Nayoung Lee (Sociology Department at Chung-Ang University), titled "Standing between revolution and negotiation: How do we the citizens intervene in the state affairs? The need of feminist politics in this time of politics."

   President Park was dismissed and South Korean citizens' 'candlelight protests' won. However, this is not the end, but the beginning of rebuilding South Korean society. Soon, through the election, South Korean citizens will choose their new president. The citizens are now debating what they will ask of a new president, from their passion of solving all the deep­rooted social problems.

   As declared at a rally 'Stop at 3 o'clock!' on last International Women's Day, it is groundless to say these days women are placed above men in South Korea. South Korea's gender wage gap of 100:63 (men vs. women), which has been for long the biggest among the OECD nations, does clearly show the reality of South Korean women workers. This gap implies there exist various kinds of gender discrimination in South Korean society, from lookism, glass­ceiling, and discrimination in job placement, to all care work which women are burdened with as their 'natural duties' at home. 

   However, politics, the very area which women should actively participate in, is hardly open to the women. The proportion of women in the public sphere is still meaningful in social statistics in South Korea as the public sphere is mostly filled with men. In the politics under the men's power, women's issues are just one of the options for the policy. Women citizens have been for long angry at the patriarchal environment of South Korean politics where it is commonly said 'we should handle this first, so let's discuss the problem of gender inequality or feminism later, not this time.'

▲Professor Nayoung Lee (Sociology Department at Chung-Ang University) in her presentation ⒸKorean Women Workers Association

   How would such recent dramatic experiences in South Korea as the dismissal of President Park, candlelight protests, and the upcoming presidential election change women's political and social status? How could women's voices influence policies by intervening in the 'men's business', politics? At the forum for the presidential election agendas, which was held on Feb. 23, 2017 in the National Assembly Library, Professor Nayoung Lee (Sociology Department at Chung-Ang University) discussed some clues to answer the above questions. 

Gender, as a 'Socially Constructed' Dividing Line

   After Western societies experienced the second feminist movement in the 1970s, it became generally understood that gender was social and cultural construction. By sharing their own oppressive experiences as the unprivileged, the women as a social group has been formed. 

   In this vein, gender can be one of the many socially constructed dividing lines. According to Professor Lee, through such various socially constructed dividing lines as class, race, and sexuality, society has divided and excluded some groups of people, and justified unequal treatment of them, which leads to reproducing unequal distribution of resources. 

   These various socially constructed dividing lines, which are intersecting with one another in one's life, play an important role in deciding one's social place. 'The minorities' could be those who have the inferior social position, based on the intersection of these socially constructed dividing lines. However, the status of the minorities is not being equally shared. For instance, a white, heterosexual woman CEO and a black, lesbian woman laborer would not have everything in common in their rights.

   Then, how could citizens, who are placed at the different social positions under the intersecting dividing lines, live together in one society? First, we can think of erasing each group's difference, but this is impossible, and unjust. According to Iris Young, to voice 'freedom' and 'equality' ignoring each group's different social position can make the more privileged forget about their own privilege. Also, it can not only make those outside the mainstream more disadvantaged, but also lead to their self-depreciation.

   According to Professor Lee, justice is to acknowledge and affirm the difference between the groups. It is the duty of a democratic state to provide the system which acknowledges and represents the interests of the socially disadvantaged. Iris Young insisted that representative democracy should treat people as a member of the social group, not a single individual. 

   However, Yuval-Davis criticizes Iris Young's approach. Each member of the group is different from each other, and the line between the groups is flexible. Individual difference is already related to the public sphere. When the flexibility of difference, the relationship between the differences, and the possibility of restructuring such relationship is not considered, identity politics will homogenize their own group and become exclusive to the other groups. 

   As an alternative to the identity politics, Yuval-Davis suggests "transversal politics." Universalism which assumes homogeneity as a starting point has risks of excluding the others. Relativism, which regards difference between the groups or individuals as a starting point, has risks of assuming that it is impossible to share the common interests or to have a genuine conversation with one another. 'Transversal politics' is different. According to Yuval-Davis, a transversal journey with the others is "to be with the others who share values and goals with us despite their difference in origin."

▲The plaza was a place for solidarity among 'the excluded'. ⒸShin, Sanga

The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house

   "Is this a nation?" This question from people's anger and despair made them hold up the candles and gather at the plaza to protest. Although monopoly of government affairs by Sunsil Choi and her daughter was certainly momentum of the protests, South Korea citizens' 'candlelight plaza' was not a mere place for expressing their anger over the incident. The 'candlelight plaza' was a place for solidarity among those who had been excluded by the social system which disrespected human dignity. Their experiences of diversity and difference made South Korea citizens have  'creative tension' at the plaza.

   Social minorities including feminists, LGBTs, and the disabled voiced equality and justice against discrimination and hatred, in the midst of 16 million citizens' 'candlelight protests'. Although at every moment the protesters had conflicts, beyond such conflicts, they strived to learn maturer awareness of citizenship and human rights. In the citizens' public sphere and  political battlefield, the discussion of such socially constructed dividing lines as gender, sexuality, and disability attempted to realize the politics of coexistence at the most historical moment in South Korean society. 

   However, still women's voices are not treated as the universal issues in real politics. Certainly there are tons of people who are asking the citizens to 'line up' for someone, with a promise that all problems will be solved once the government could be changed in the presidential election. But with a mere change of the government, patriarchal and heterosexual­oriented cultures ingrained in South Korean society, and political corruption which has placed South Korea in the depth of unjustice will be hardly overcome. Only when economic, social, and political power relations, diverse socially constructed dividing lines, and people's life and pain  influenced by those factors are considered, we could solve the remaining problems with 'radical revolutionary language' for the structural change. 

   "What we have to do now is to convert the protesters' candlelights to the language of revolution and to the momentum of social change. This is because the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."

   In this second article on the forum's first presentation, starting from the question on the women as a gender, we discussed the gender as a 'socially constructed dividing line' and doing the politics with the recognition and affirmation of difference which clearly exists among the social members. In the next third article, the topic of "women's labor policy and discussion of care work" will be presented by Professor Yun, Jayeong (Economics Depart. at Chungnam National University).

Posted by KWWA

티스토리 툴바