'Nobody wants to do this.'

 'My work is not considered valuable by the society.'

 

 Could there be more bitter words for workers? In response to the question 'Why is your job a low-wage job', 35% of the voucher care workers who responded to the survey said, 'Nobody wants to do it and is not considered valuable by the society'.

 

 The Ministry of Health and Welfare has assured that service users who are socially disadvantaged can obtain options through vouchers and that service providers will compete with each other to improve the quality of care services. However, the voucher system introduced in 2007 and implemented for the 10th year does not consider workers who provide care services.

 

 The voucher system was introduced by the government in 2007 to ensure the choice of service users, to manage service providers and to improve service quality. In addition to the fact that the satisfaction of service users is not as high as the expectation of the voucher system, serious problems are raised in many respects such as care workers, service providers, and building self-reliance of local social services.

 

 The Korea Women Workers Association and Korea Caring Cooperative Council conducted a research and held a forum to investigate the current status and problems of service delivery using the market mechanism through the Survey on Labor Practices of the Four Social Services Vouchers, and propose policies and practical improvements. The objectives of the research include: i) review of the characteristics of each of the four voucher programs (elderly care service, disabled activity support service, home care visit service, and maternal newborn health care support service) ii) evaluation of the effectiveness of the voucher program by services and organizational types (validating the consistent claim of the pro-voucher), iii) investigation of the actual condition of working conditions of care workers participating in the voucher program, iv) examination on the sustainability of the voucher program, v) proposal for policy improvement, better working conditions of care workers, awareness-raising for the beneficiaries.

 

 

 

Reality of voucher care worker, ‘total crisis’

 

 How exactly is the wage of the voucher care workers computed? by what process? The answer is 'No one knows.'

 

 A gap appears from the point how service providers and care workers perceive the amount of wage. According to the agency's response, the average hourly wage for the Four Voucher care workers is 7,259 won. However, according to the response of care workers, the workers of the profit organization receive 7,018 won per hour on average, while the nonprofit care workers receive an average of 7,118 won per hour.

 

 One can think that the wage of care work is at least above the minimum wage. The truth is, however, average pre-tax wage of care workers is only about 870,000 won. To understand this point, we first need to look at the nature of care work through the voucher fees.

 

 It is very difficult to know how different the methods for deciding wages are for each of the four vouchers and how what exactly the differences are. The basic hourly wage of workers, various benefits, retirement allowance, the share of the providers for 4 major social insurances and operating expenses of the institutions are all to be covered by the fees provided by the government. The reason why the perception of the wages of institutions and workers appear different is the structural condition that leads to lack of coherence and transparency.

 

 Is the statutory allowance being properly paid? No. 52.6% of regular employees and 42.1% of irregular workers receive weekly holiday pay. The rate of payment for annual leave and overtime allowance is also low. Only 52.6% of regular workers and 36.8% of irregular workers receive annual allowance. In case of overtime allowances, 44.7% of regular workers and 28.9% of irregular workers are getting paid.

 

 In addition, care workers who provide services through voucher schemes are suffering from chronic employment insecurity. The voucher program is suspended in case of hospitalization or death of the service users or replacement of service provider or institution. It is often the case that an employment contract is terminated automatically. Even if an employment contract is maintained, the worker is likely to work without getting paid. In the first place, the contract period itself is not long enough. The average duration of contracts for voucher care workers ranges from six months to one year.

 

 The difficulties that care workers face in providing services are not just low wages and job insecurity. Offering various options to the service users should be seen as a positive aspect, but sometimes it is difficult for the agencies and workers to refuse the requests of the users who want 'service' outside the scope of the contract such as buying alcohol. The situation is hard to mediate because agencies and workers could be replaced by the service use after refusing an unfavorable request.

 

 As seen above, the reality of the voucher care workers deserves to be called a 'total crisis'. About 35% of care workers who responded to the survey said low social awareness of care work is the primary reason for low wage of the work. The voices of field workers tell us that care work itself is undervalued regardless of the voucher scheme.

 

 It is not surprising or unexpected that the needs for care work will increase since the society is rapidly turning into an aging society. The opinion of the 35% of the respondents on how nobody wants to do care work and how the society doesn’t see the value of the work might have to be regarded as a warning message rather than outpourings of their agonies.

 

Care workers work to make a living

 

 If so, what steps should be taken to overcome the overall problems of the current voucher system? Yoon Jung-hyang, Researcher, proposed a way to integrate and unify the resources of care services by combining long-term care insurance and voucher schemes to secure the financial resources of voucher service. Disclosing the method to calculate fees and supporting personnels with governmental grant were proposed as solutions.


 



 It was also argued that the method of calculating fees of services should be formulated disclosed for review. Yoon also pointed out that raising the wage level of care workers is an important issue. Considering that the majority of care workers who responded to the survey chose care work to make a living, the current wage of voucher care workers is insufficient to meet the needs of the workers.

 

 Because of the nature the care work, care workers suffer from constant job insecurity, which can be seen from irregular working hours and high turnover rates. This makes low wages more problematic for care workers. We need to stabilize the employment by making it possible to maintain the labor contract even if the job is interrupted before termination, and to ensure a certain level of wages even when a worker takes a leave.

 

 Solving the problems of job insecurity and low wages is not enough. It is necessary to seek ways to overcome the overwork of caring workers by categorizing types of the work for wage calculation and running a program to raise awareness of service users. Local governments should take steps to improve the working environment by providing stable jobs to care workers and by creating psychological healing programs.

 

 At the same time, it is necessary to strictly ‘qualify’ the service providers and introduce a service provider rejection system so that the care service can maintain a certain level of quality. In order to check the situation of the service users, professional managers should be put into the field.

 

 The Secretary-General of Institute of Health and Welfare resources, Jang Bo-hyun encouraged the audience as a panelist by saying, "We can not achieve anything if we don’t act", "We have to act together in solidarity." Song Yoo-Jeong, Chair of the Policy Committee of Korea Caring Social Cooperative, urged for integration of social insurance system despite short-term difficulties and emphasized the importance of strict monitoring to make sure only the agencies who have concerns for society can survive.

 

 

Expenditure of 2016

(Unit : KRW)

Region

Details of expenses

Amount in local currency (KRW)

Daegu

Activities for the local community (including small group meetings)

1,200,000

Education activities (honoraria for speakers, preparation materials for education activities, etc.)

800,000

Expenses for promotion

200,000

 

Gyeong-ju

Pum-at-ie activities

800,000

Education activities

(Humanities lecture , Ecological experience)

1,000,000

Campaign

200,000

Suwon

Education

(honoraria for speakers, preparation materials)

1,000,000

Campaign

(Flyers and other preparation materials)

200,000

forum

(honoraria for speakers)

800,000

Head quarter

International solidarity (English translation)

1,010,640

Grand Total

7,210,640


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 Half of the 8.5 million women workers in Korea are irregular workers. The wage of non-regular female workers is only 35.4% of the regular male workers' wages, and the gap in average monthly wage is the largest among OECD countries. The same applies to the minimum wage, which is supposed to ensure the minimum standard of living. Out of 2 million workers who are paid below the minimum wage, 64% are women and most of them are irregular workers.

 

 Because they are female, they are temporary workers and they are paid low wage because they are temporary workers. Because women are employed with low wage, a vicious cycle continues.

 

 Women's labor has always been underestimated. Types of businesses and jobs are limited for women and only marginal tasks are assigned to women. In particular, care work, which women have been mainly doing, is more devalued than others.

 

 With this reality, the administration of Park is expanding only part-time jobs, in the name of eliminating career cuts and increasing the employment rate of women. As a result, the quality of women's employment is getting worse and the domestic work and child-rearing are regarded as women's work while demanding the balance between work and family only to women.

 

 In schools where equality should be taught, irregular positions are filled by women workers. Paying about half of the wage of regular workers, the schools require high-intensity labor to female workers. Basic livelihood is not even secured because the workers are not paid during summer/winter vacation periods.

 

 Even though the state is responsible for the care work, private sector has taken the business without concerns for the public. Serving as on-call-workers and part-times, the workers are exposed to a precarious situation where they can lose their job by a word of the employer. Especially, the assistants for people with disabilities are paid below minimum wage.

 

 The situation is not different for workers with indirect employment such as in the industry of cleaning services. Workers hired by indirect employment, which mostly consist of older women workers, are usually forced to renew their contracts with other users every year. Wages are also as low as the minimum wage level. In recent years, some employers paid even less than the minimum wage by reducing work hours for the same amount of work to increase the intensity of the labor. Although the guidelines for management of public sector services stipulate the employment stability and the standard price for the service, they are useless in the field.

 

 In order to resolve discriminatory low wages of these women, the minimum wage should be raised first. Even though the minimum wage is the least of compensation for the work, it becomes the standard for the wage of female irregular workers. Raising the minimum wage above 10,000 won is the fist step to ensure security of basic livelihood and the social safety net that can protect female irregular workers from the worst situation. The government should address root-causes of discriminatory practices towards irregular workers and female worker starting from the public sector.




 We are workers who are entitled to respect from all. We are daughters of this land who have the right to live as a human being without discrimination.

 We urge for following changes and hereby adopt a resolution to fight until our demand is met.

 

 First, raise the minimum wage above 10,000 won for living!

 First, eliminate the low wages from the public sector!

 First, respect women's labor and ensure equal pay for equal work!

 First, eliminate discrimination against irregular workers!

 First, we oppose different application of minimum wage by industry!

 


June 24, 2016

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 The 20th National Assembly should immediately establish the Special Act on Domestic Workers!

 Immediately ratify the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers!

 

 June 16, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. at the Gwanghwamun Square in front of the statue of the King Sejong, Association of Home Care Workers, Korea Domestic Workers Association, Korea YWCA held a press conference to mark the 5th International Domestic Workers Day.

 

 About 70 domestic workers attended the meeting to deliver the voices from the field of housekeeping, maternal work, childcare and the solidarity letter of the International Domestic Workers Federation with a performance of popping a gourd.

 


2016 Statement on International Domestic Workers’ Day

 

 Since 2006, we three organizations working on domestic work have been carrying out activities to ensure labor rights for domestic workers. In April 2006, for the first time since liberation, a forum was held on the issue of informal care work, revealing the reality of domestic workers in the blind spot of legal protection. In July, Care Work Team was established to protect the rights of care workers. In 2010, 16 labor social civic groups gathered to initiate a legislative movement to protect domestic workers. In 2011, the ILO adopted a convention for protection of domestic workers, which was called ‘the last pending issue of international labor.’ Since then, domestic labor organizations and civil society organizations have long been demanding the application of labor laws and ratification of ILO conventions.

 

 As a result of these efforts, last year, the government drafted a special bill on the domestic work announcing a goal of proposing it within the year. Last year, however, the government unilaterally halted it without any consultation, saying that the Ministry of Employment and Labor should concentrate its efforts to promote labor reform.

 

 In the meantime, the working conditions of domestic workers have not changed a bit. Domestic workers have been excluded from legal protection for over 60 years due to a provision of the Labor Standards Act. They can not receive occupational health and safety insurance, health insurance or unemployment benefits. Even if they are unfairly dismissed or payment is delayed, no other legal means are available than civil litigation. There are no statistics available for our domestic workers. Only the total number of domestic workers is estimated. Nowadays, the number of middle-aged domestic workers is increasing in the field. No matter how long they work, for 5 years or 10 years, they can not benefit from national pension as well as retirement pay to prepare for old age. Our domestic workers who work without a single contract ask the government and the 20th National Assembly. Where can we find the policies for domestic workers?

 

 Celebrating the 5th International Domestic Workers Day, we will strengthen our solidarity. We want to write our history with our own hands.

 

 We urge for the right to enjoy the right to work and the stable working conditions guaranteed by Article 37 of the Constitution. We urge the government to ratify the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers, which ensures the labor rights to the domestic workers. We strongly urge everyone to recognize 300,000 domestic workers as worker.

 

 With this resolution, we demand the 20th National Assembly and the government, which were launched amid heavy expectations of the people, as follows.

 

 First, cooperate with domestic labor organizations to immediately establish the Special Act on Domestic Workers!

 Second, immediately ratify the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers!

 Third, immediately establish a mechanism for social dialogue to ensure the social rights of domestic workers!

 Fourth, establish a plan to expand care services and support non-profit service providers!

 


June 16, 2016


Association of Home Care Workers, Korea Domestic Workers Association,

Korea YWCA

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