On International Women's Day, Mar. 8th, we listened to the story from the organizer of 'Stop at 3 o'clock!', the first rally in South Korea which urged workers to leave work early to protest against the gender wage gap. Below is an interview with Ms. Younok Lim (standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association) who organized this rally. 

- Please tell us the background of the rally.

"In South Korea, it is taken for granted that women workers get paid less than men. It is a problem itself that this serious situation is not taken as a 'problem'. We, Korean Women Workers Association organized this rally as the best way to get people's attention to the gender wage gap, which we think is a clear index of gender inequality in South Korea." 

- Could you tell us more about people in today's rally?

"Today, we met many members from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and Korean Women's Trade Union, including cleaning workers and non­regular school workers. To attend this rally, they took today off or used their allocated time for education as a union member. We also met many supporters from non-governmental organizations including women's organizations. We understand, in reality, it is not easy to leave work early no matter how much s/he supports our position. So, we asked our supporters to stand by us in the other ways, such as to stop working just for a moment at 3 PM or to take a photo of a note saying '#Stop at 3 o'clock!' if they could not leave the office for our rally."

- We have already seen similar rallies taking place in the other countries, such as Iceland, France, and UK. It was nice to watch today's rally, but it seemed somewhat late to have this rally today in South Korea, notorious for its biggest gender wage gap among the OECD nations. How did you feel about today's rally?

"I was really moved today. Despite our huge gender wage gap, it was not easy to be cleary aware of this problem in our society. People say, 'things are also tough for men', or 'these days women got more power than men.' But in reality, regardless of their age, South Korean women workers are under various types of sexual discrimination at the workplace, such as wage discrimination and sexual harassment. So far, there have been only a few supporting us in this issue, but today, here at the heart of Seoul, we freely expressed our anger and concern about this problem of the women workers. It moved me a lot, as I felt my 30 years of participation in the NGO movement for the women workers had helped to make some progress in society.〔tears〕"

- The gender wage gap of South Korea (37%), the worst among the OECD nations, is much bigger than the second biggest gap of Japan and  Estonia (26%). What do you think made the gender wage gap in South Korea so 'uniquely left behind'?

"I think it was mainly the patriarchal culture and system in South Korea. Korean women are burdened with care work for their family members, but hardly given any help from the government. It helps lower the quality of women's jobs in South Korea, as part­time jobs are almost the only option for these women, who have to juggle alone work and family responsibilities."

- You mentioned the decreased gender wage gap would also benefit the men workers.

"This is not a zero­sum game. Those who have benefited from the women workers' low income are not the men workers, but the employers. Right after the IMF crisis in South Korea, it was mainly the women workers whose working status was changed into the temporary position. Before long, the percentage of temporary employees among the men workers was also increased. This means, today's large proportion of temporary workers among the women workers is not just 'the problem of the women', but 'the problem of the entire labor market' in South Korea. When something made the women workers unhappy, it would not benefit the men workers, but harm every worker regardless of his/her gender. So, today I am asking the men workers to stand by us against the women's low income. South Korea's huge gender wage gap should not be just taken for granted, but should be overcome, so that we can make a more fundamental change in the working conditions in South Korea. If we better the most vulnerable jobs' working conditions, it will help to improve the overall labor environment in South Korean society."

* Counter­statements to the most frequent criticisms on the issue of the gender wage gap

1. 'Women workers are more likely to avoid the extra work at night or over the weekend. So, it is no wonder many companies favor men as their employees.' 

Ms. Younok Lim (standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association): I just want to ask. Who is cooking your breakfast and dinner? Who is taking care of your children and their school work? Who is looking after your sick parents? It is usually women who take all these family responsibilities. But are they really jobs only for women? Before criticizing women workers, we should first share their care work at home.

2. '37% of gender wage gap in South Korea is fair as the women workers work 37% less than the men workers in average.'

Ms. Younok Lim (standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association): Today's rally 'Stop at 3 o'clock!' was to get people's attention to the problem that women workers are paid 37% less than the men workers in average. This is as if women workers are working without pay for three hours everyday, from 3 to 6 PM. However, for the Korean women workers, this is not the only unpaid work time. After 6 PM, childcare and/or housework, their another type of unpaid work, is waiting for them at home. By the way, what's the use of arguing with the men over whose hard work should be more appreciated? It is the government and the companies which should be blamed first for the huge gender wage gap and unfavorable conditions for the work­family balance.

3. 'Bringing up the women's problems can make the gender relations more divisive.'

Ms. Younok Lim (standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association): We are not making the gender relations divisive. We just want to abolish sexual discrimination and hatred rampant in South Korean society. Regardless of their gender, all workers have rights to leave work at the regular time. During the time of pregnancy and child­rearing, both men and women workers have equal rights to shorten their working hours. Today's three days of paid paternity leave should be extended to one month, and men workers should be given equal rights and responsibilities to take leave to care for their young children. 

Posted by KWWA

   Yesterday, Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family issued a news release under the title, 'Women's career breaks decreased with the increase of part­time jobs, the most preferred job type for the unemployed women'. It was based on their 2016 survey on the economic activity of 4,835 Korean women aged 25 to 54. 

   The survey shows that most unemployed Korean women prefer part­time jobs, which they find relatively easy to mange with their other work at home, such as caring and educating young children, doing house chores, and taking care of other family members. This means in Korean society, care work at home is believed as the job only for women, which makes Korean women fettered by lots of responsibilities at home. They want part­time jobs because they need to make ends meet while doing care work as their primary job. This is reality for many unemployed women in Korea. 

   Although it is well known that the working conditions of part­time jobs are poor, Korean government keeps cornering Korean women into such low quality jobs. The average monthly wage for the part­timers in Korea is 740,000 Korean won (approximately 660 US dollars). This places 24.8% of the part­time workers directly under the influence of the minimum wage, which is at the highest level among the all non­regular workers in Korea. In Korea, the ratio of the part­timers who are being given pension and overtime pay is only 16.6% and 11.1%, respectively. Those who can enjoy their paid vacation comprise 9.2% among the part­time workers, while only 15.3% of them are being covered by the national pension plan. Their average years of service is 1.7, and the ratio of the unionized workers is only 0.6%. 29.5% of them belong to the company with less than five employees, known as the most vulnerable workplace to the exploitation of labor. 

   Unlike their propaganda, Korean government failed to create the 'decent part­time jobs', which did not really exist in Korean society. In the name of their efforts to create 'decent part­time jobs' at the public sector, many full­time jobs were changed to the part­time positions while some were even fired for the expiration of  employment contract. These par­time jobs are dead­end jobs, as they do not guarantee any possibility of being given more professional tasks or promoted in the future. However, these low quality jobs are being called 'jobs for the women' by the Korean government. Already 20% of women workers are now working part­time, while the number of part­time jobs has continuously increased during the last nine years of conservative governments. 

   This cannot be called a 'free choice'. It is not even a 'preference'. This is nothing but 'coercion' as many unemployed Korean women have nowhere to go except these low quality part­time jobs. What the government should do is to help change the social system in which society and other family members share care work at home. It could be the worst abrogation of responsibility if we do nothing but burdening women alone with all the care responsibilities at home. Korean government should not cover up the reality in which many women are 'forced' to work part­time because of their burden of care responsibilities. What they really want is a job where they can use and develop their own talent expecting  better future. What is needed for them is a social system where they can share their care responsibilities with the other family members  and society especially when re­employed, as well as a social policy which helps prevent women from experiencing career breaks due to their burden of care work, but not so­called 'decent part time jobs' that do not exist in reality.

Feb. 22, 2017

Korean Women Workers Association

Posted by KWWA

   On Jan. 13th, 2017, on the day when we Korean Women Workers Association had our annual meeting, Bokgyeong Seo, Research Professor at Sogang Institute of Political Studies, gave us a lecture before the meeting's main event. Throughout Professor Seo's lecture, many assumptions about the recent monopoly of state affairs in South Korean and the citizen's protests against it were examined with empirical evidence and theories. Below is a summary of her lecture. 

   Her first point was made on a position which attributed the recent monopoly of state affairs to the gender of President Park. According to Professor Seo, who should be blamed for the recent monopoly of state affairs is not just President Park, but the whole system of South Korean government, ruling party, and some media corporations, which are mostly made up of men. Professor Seo pointed out the fact that the constitution of Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in 1919 had guaranteed the franchise of people, regardless of their social status, class, and gender. She urged South Koreans not to be misled by some groundless position attributing the recent monopoly of state affairs to President Park's gender, as they were the citizens of a nation which had announced gender equality more than one hundred years ago. Today's breakdown of Korean government had been made possible not just by President Park alone, but by all those in power in South Korean society, Professor Seo insisted. 

   According to the survey conducted jointly by Naeil Daily Newspaper and Sogang Institute of Political Studies in December, 2016, the survey respondents who had participated in the protests against the recent monopoly of state affairs pointed out their anxiety about the future as the biggest reason for their participation in the protests. As the most severe conflict in today's South Korean society, 40.1% and 33.2% of the survey respondents pointed out class conflicts and ideological conflicts, respectively. In a  survey conducted three years ago in December, 2013, 34.9% and 39.4% of the respondents chose class conflicts and ideological conflicts, respectively, as the most severe social conflicts in South Korea. The survey result also shows how seriously the issue of class conflicts is being taken among the working-class citizens. The proportion of people who think the issue of class conflicts as a severe problem is 44.1% in the 2016 survey, while 29.1% in the 2013 survey. In the 2016 survey, only 10.7% of respondents in 20s and 8.1% of those in 30s regarded the distribution of wealth in South Korean society as equitable, and even among the respondents in their 60s, the proportion reached only 20.1%. According to Professor Seo, the main driving force which has issued the recent monopoly of state affairs is the choice South Korean citizens made in their 20th general election. As South Korean citizens found out through the election the others were also thinking of President Park's government as problematic, they began to more openly protest against its maladministration cases.

   As the cause of the recent monopoly of state affairs, 49.3% of respondents in 20's and 40.1% of those in 30's point out corrupt relationship among the conglomerates, government officials, and the prosecution. For 46.5% of respondents in 40's, 48.2% of those in 50's, and 40.8% of those in 60's, it is President Park's abnormal governing of administration which caused the recent monopoly of state affairs. This survey result shows that those in their 20s and 30s would be  satisfied only after fundamentally changing South Korean politics while those over 40 could feel okay with just changing the government. This can be also found out in the survey on the people's sense of political efficacy. 'Sense of political efficacy' measures how strongly a person believes s/he has the ability to influence politics. While the proportion of respondents who express disagreement with their inability to influence politics was 29% in a survey conducted in June 2016, it reached 53.3% in another survey conducted six months later. As before in South Korean society, when people's sense of political efficacy is low, their protests cannot fundamentally change their everyday political system. South Korean politicians knew this very well, so they used to resume their corruption once people's protests ceased. Now, however, 53.3% of the survey respondents believe their capability to change their politics. They believe they are better at making a change in the political system than the politicians. This means South Korean citizens are now less likely to overlook politicians' corruption than in the past. 

   In South Korea, it is the group aged from 35 to 44 who show the most radical positions in their political and economic issues. This might be because this generation experienced the IMF crisis in 1997 at the age of 17 through 25, which is a critical time to develop one's political opinions. They experienced a radical change in their labor environment, as many regular,  permanent positions were replaced by temporary, unstable ones after the crisis. Their anger and dissatisfaction with their labor environment made themselves have the most radical positions in the political issues. The younger generation, aged from 25 to 33, has different characteristics.  This is the first generation in South Korean society who has developed their sense of democratic rights from birth. Therefore, this group shows the most radical position in the issues of gender equality. Another interesting group is those in their 60s, as they have even more conservative positions in the political issues than those over 70. This is probably because they had highly nationalistic public education under the military dictatorship in the 1960s. 

   A graph on the age-specific sense of political efficacy shows that in every age group, sense of political efficacy is higher in December, 2016 than in June, 2016. Among the respondents in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, the proportion of people expressing their strong sense of political efficacy reaches more than 50%. 

   The point is it is those in their 50s who hold the casting vote in the elections. Although those aged from 19 to 49 make up 54% of the total voters, because of their low turnout, they only account for 40% among the actual voters. Once those in their 50s have more progressive positions on the political issues, we can make a bigger change. Those in their 50s are the most affluent among the all age groups, and among the all members of the National Assembly, the proportion of those in their 50s is the highest. It is this age group being represented more than its actual number in South Korean politics. In the last presidential election, their turnout reached 82%.

   Now, we can see this group in their 50s is beginning to act. Compared to those in the protests in 2008, participants in the recent protests in 2016 show more equitable distribution in their gender and age. This was possible as more women in their 40s and 50s participated in the recent protests. Interestingly, for more than half of the participants in the recent protests, it was their first-time experience to come out to the streets to demonstrate. It is not groundless to say that the total number of participants in the protests against the government reached ten million in 2016. 76.7% of the survey respondents in December, 2016 answered the protests against President Park's government should be continued until she entirely resigned the presidency. 

   Below are the typical survey questions which political scientists use to measure how people think of their political system; first, "democracy is always better than any other political system", second, "sometimes dictatorship is better than democracy", third, "between democracy and dictatorship, I do not mind which of them will be chosen." The below graph shows how South Korean citizens have answered since 1996 to the first question, "democracy is always better than any other political system." 

The answers to this very question can be also used to analyze how people think of social and political change. Based on the below graph, Professor Seo supposes how South Korean citizens in their 50s have felt about their governments. In 2002, they voted for the progressive ruling party as they had some empathy with the government which had been struggling with the IMF crisis. Once the progressive party came into power again with President Roh, Moo-hyun, citizens in their 50s got dissatisfied with his government as they felt his presidency did not help so much to improve their living. This is why the conservative party could come into power in 2007. One year later, in the general election in 2008, they showed the lowest voter turnout. In the 18th presidential election in 2012, they chose a five-term congresswoman Park, Geun-hye as they felt more familiar with her compared to her opponent Moon, Jae-in. However, their living got even worse, and they lost their trust in the political system, which could be shown in their responses to this first question in a survey in June, 2016. Once almost half of the respondents agree with this first question, political scientists see this as a sign of social change. After experiencing a series of maladministration cases of President Park's government, finally they came to a moment of reflection on their political situation. In the last survey in December, 2016, the proportion of respondents who agreed with the first question, "democracy is always better than any other political system" reached 75.5%, which was the highest proportion since 1996. 


   Citizens in their 20s through 40s will never stop. Once they experience their strong sense of political efficacy, they will hardly stand social and political system which keeps themselves poor and powerless. As our future is for this young generation, political support from those in their 50s is critical. Therefore, we need to organize the voices from those in their 50s. Most of the people participating in the recent protests are from the middle-class, who are capable of expressing their voices. However, those in their 50s, especially lower income, women workers working long hours are less capable of expressing their political opinions. They hardly have enough time to read newspapers or watch TV news. What we need to do is listen to them, not teach them, so that they can more freely express themselves on the political issues. 

   When our belongings are broken, we have two options; either repairing and reusing them, or throwing them away and buying the new ones. Unfortunately, our politics cannot be just thrown away. It should keep working with every single penny we pay for the tax. What we need to do is correct our malfunctioning politics, that is to make our public system work for its real owner, the citizens. 

Posted by KWWA

   On Friday, Jan. 13th, 2017, on the day when it snowed heavily, we, Korean Women Workers Association, had our annual meeting for the year of 2017 at Daejeon NGO Support Center. In the meeting, we talked about our new year plan as well as our achievements last year. We also elected our new leaders during the meeting! 

▲(From the left) Yongmi Kim (activist, Korean Women Workers Association at Gwangju), Myeongsuk Park (president, Korean Women Workers Association at Incheon / elected auditor), Seongyeop Lee (CPA / elected auditor), Jihyeon Na (president, Korean Women's Trade Union / elected deputy representative), Mingyeong Shin (president, Korean Women Workers Association at North Jeolla Province / elected deputy representative), Jin Kyung Bae (co­representative, Korean Women Workers Association / re­elected), Younok Lim (standing representative, Korean Women Workers Association / re­elected), Yuri Na (activist, Guro Educational Center for the Women Workers)

   Voilà! Let us introduce our new leaders chosen by voting in the meeting. Younok Lim and Jin Kyung Bae were re­elected as standing representative and co­representative, respectively. For the deputy representatives, we chose Jihyeon Na (chairperson, Korean Women's Trade Union) and Mingyeong Shin (president, Korean Women Workers Association at North Jeolla Province). Myeongsuk Park (president, Korean Women Workers Association at Incheon) and Seongyeop Lee (CPA) gladly accepted to serve as our new auditors. 

   Now, let us introduce our core projects for the new year! First, we would like to talk about Korea's gender wage gap, ranked the largest among the OECD countries. In order to help close this gap, based on our long­term strategy, we decided to take a variety of actions, such as strikes on International Women's Day, projects to raise minimum wage, and protests against gender earnings inequality.

   'Hatred' is a key word to interpret main social issues in Korea during the last couple of years. The less­privileged, including women and even the victims of a national tragedy became the easy targets of hatred. Especially last year in Korea, hatred for women was the subject of heated debate. Related to this debate, we remember such major issues as a murder case of a young woman at Gangnam Station and social media users' exposure of sexual  violence still rampant in various fields in Korean society. Facing these issues, Korea women do not suppress their anger any more. Now they try to make their voice heard in a whole society, seeing their everyday lives and experiences from a feminist perspective. 

   However, unfortunately, the issues of 'women's work' are not so much standing out amongst these vehement feminist debates. How could we help bridge the gap between the issues of feminism and women's work? In order to show to the public how closely these two are connected in reality, we are designing a nationwide lecturing tour and rallies to support women workers' strikes, along with a campaign named 'Math to Make a Difference'. 

To Make a Difference, Let's...

  (+) Raise the Minimum Wage / (-) Reduce the Working Hours / (÷) Share the Care Work / (×) Multiply our Respect for Labor

   In 2015, we decided to change ourselves to be an organization for our members and people, not just for our activists and projects. This is our decision to become more open to the public, instead of making one­way relationship with them. Our project 'Vision for Our Future', which we have worked on since 2015 to put this decision in action, has helped us to get a clear understanding of who we are and what we should do to better ourselves. Below are our main tasks to realize our vision for the future; more actively sharing and communicating with our members and the public, making secure our core values, and strengthening our leaders' ability. 

   To reach these goals, today we announced that we would try our best to realize our vision 'Change and Development for the Women Workers', as well as to help our activists and members educate themselves on the issues of women's work, with the help of our education committee.

   So far, we have introduced to you our leaders and plans for the new year, all decided at our 25th annual meeting for the year of 2017. We hope you'll like them. After the presidential impeachment motion was approved last December, Korean society has been in the midst of chaos. In addition, this year, we are expecting such weighty issues as the early presidential election. This is rocky time, but together, we will happily get over all these challenges!

Posted by KWWA


 '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.



Posted by KWWA


 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

Posted by KWWA

 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

Posted by KWWA

Currently, the governmental committee is discussing the minimum wage to be applied in 2017. Users are requesting to apply different minimum wage depending on the industry. According to their demand, payment below minimum standard is allowed in 7 industries out of 21, including wholesale and retail, transport, accommodation, restaurant, real estate, business support, arts and sports, and other personal services.


 They claim that these industries are not able to pay for personnel expenses and the portion of short-time workers is bigger comparing to other industries. They also argue that most of workers in the 7 industries work for supplementary income, rather than making a living.


 However, we can find large corporations such as department stores, large marts, condominiums, hotels, large restaurants, entertainment bars, manpower supply business, and air transportation. In spite of the large scale of the businesses, they are employing irregular workers through indirect employment to lower the wages. Also, wage is not a primary factor for the ability to pay for small businesses. What needs to be addressed is increasing rents, fees of the franchise headquarters, unfair transactions of the subcontracting. Lowering the wage should not be a solution for financial restrictions.


 Among various reasons why there are many short-time workers, the biggest reason is that the users hire irregular workers to avoid employment of regular workers. The workers usually don’t get to choose the type of employment. Also, the wage is used to make a living, even if it is spent as supplementary income. All workers choose to work dreaming of a more relaxed life. Whether the money is spent on a cup of coffee or a meal, everything is connected to the worker’s life.


 But are the user’s representatives telling all the reasons? We doubt if they are hiding their real intentions.


 The Korea Women Workers' Association looked at the minimum wage workers in the industry through statistics of March 2016. The number of workers who belong to the minimum wage range (90-110% minimum wage) in our country is 1,846,000. These workers are immediately affected by the rise and fall of the minimum wage. On the other hand, the number of workers in the seven industries whose wage is demanded to be paid below current minimum wage is 1,158,000, taking up 62.7% of the total workers. In fact, low-wage workers are concentrated on seven industries. Adjusting the standard for the 7 sectors can cause lowering the wage of 62.7% of the workers in the minimum wage range.


 More surprisingly, the number of workers in the minimum wage range decreases to 1.56 million when we exclude sectors that user representatives have no direct interest such as health and social welfare services, public administration and social security administration, education service industry, agro-fishery, and employment in households. Among the 1.56 million workers, the proportion of workers in the 7 industries reaches 76.9%. Reducing the minimum wage for the 7 industries leads to lowering the minimum wage in general. This is what the user representatives are secretly aiming for.


 The consequences of reduced minimum wage will be even worse for women workers. The proportion of women who receive minimum wages is 64%. The high proportion of women among low-wage workers is caused by undervaluing the value of women's labor and abusing non-regular workers. Among women workers who are affected by the minimum wage, the proportion of female workers working in the seven industries is 61.8%. The proportion increases up to 79.9% if we exclude the sectors that users have no direct interest. If the minimum wage is differently applied, female workers will bear the burden of dual discrimination.


 Paying the minimum wage differently is part of a plan to create distrust between the workers. The intension of dividing workers into nano-sized particles for better control is behind this policy. On the 23rd, tomorrow, the Minimum Wage Committee will address this issue. If the tricks of the user’s representatives are accepted at the committee, they will face strong resistance of women workers.



<Scope of Minimum Wage Workers by Industry (Sorted in descending order)>

Unit: persons
Source: National Statistical Office economic activity census (March, 2016)





I. Accommodation and restaurant business




G. Wholesale and Retail




C. Manufacturing




N. Business Facilities Management and Business Support Services




Q. Health and social welfare services




S. Associations and organizations, repair and other personal services




F. Construction




P. Educational Services




H. Transportation




O. Public Administration, Defense and Social Security Administration




R. Arts, sports and leisure services




L. Real estate and leasing




A. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries




M. Professional, scientific and technical services




K. Finance and insurance




J. Publishing, Video, Broadcasting and Information Service




T. Employment activity in households and self-produced production activities not otherwise classified



D. Electricity, gas, steam and water supply business




E. Sewage and waste disposal, recycling of raw materials and restoration of environment




B. Mining

U. International and Foreign Organizations





Posted by KWWA

 June 8, 2016 at 11 a.m. In Gwanghwamun Square, workers for Social Service Vouchers gathered. Korea Caring Cooperative Council, Korean Women Workers Association held a press conference calling for the improvement of the treatment of Social Services Vouchers workers. At the press conference, they addressed the poor working conditions of Social Service Voucher workers.


 The Social Service Voucher Program is a welfare project provided by the government for those who need care such as persons with disabilities, patients and the elderly. The government subcontracts the private sector as a source agency and entrusts dispatch and management of workers. Most of the care workers are women.


 The amount of money the government provides to subcontracting private agencies by the hour is called fees. It includes retirement allowances, weekly benefits, and payment for annual leave, 4 major insurances, administrative expenses as well as hourly wages. The agencies must cover all the wages and operating costs within the fees. The problem is that the fees are too low. Fees for nursing home care, care for the elderly is 9,800 won and 9,000 won for caring of persons with disabilities. While nursing home care and care for the elderly can be paid by minimum wage, but the situation is worse for care workers for the persons with disabilities. There’s no room for operating cost and the agencies are in the red by the rate of 169 won per hour.


 Hye-yeon Yoon, chairperson of the Korea Caring Cooperative Council, said, "We can only work when we cand afford to eat and dress and sleep. The minimum wage must be guaranteed. The state is responsible for this.“

 But the Ministry of Health and Welfare has handed over all the responsibilities to the agencies. Chang In-Soon, an assistant for the persons with disabilities said, “I do not know how the fees are calculated.” She also shouted, “Why should our care workers have to work two or three jobs for a handful of one million won every month,” and “How much is the value of our work?”

 "I am a single parent with a children of 11th grade," said Baek Ok-yang, an elderly care voucher worker. She said, “I am not a volunteer but the person with responsibilities to feed my family.” According to her, the job is highly unstable because the elderly repeat entering and leaving the hospital and easily change their schedule. “This affects livelihood of the workers as they cannot be paid when there is no opportunity to work,” she added.

 There were also complaints against users who demanded excessive work. Services users even requested to change the work just because they prefer people without glasses or chubby body. Some asked the workers to make garlic pickles for their daughter and son-in-law and others asked for kimchi for their children. There are users who consider care workers as their maid.

 But the workers are bound to accept these unjust demands. If they refuse, the users can request replacement of the worker or even the agency. This was all caused by marketization of the government, which has been introduced in the name of providing quality services through competition. As the competition between private actors intensifies the users gain more control over the workers. Respect for the workers are found nowhere.


 The organizers of the conference raised the issue of Social Service Vouchers Program including undervaluation of care work, low fees, job instability, loss of public interest, lack of protection system for workers. Participants urged the government to take the responsibility as an ultimate boss and apologize for underpaid minimum wages as well as pay unpaid wages.


 Lastly, the performance of putting a blow to the punch ball was presented. The ball read, "minimum wage violation, the real boss is the government." One participant shouted, "I am the puppet boss and the government is the real president!" The real boss is the government. It is the responsibility of the government.

[Press Conference] We demand better treatment for Social Service Vouchers Workers


 The government is taking the lead in minimum wage violation!


 Since 2007, the government has been conducting support programs for persons with disabilities as one of the Social Service Voucher Programs. In 2016, the government pays 9,000 won per hour. Based on the minimum wage of KRW 6,030, KRW 9,169 per hour is required to be able to cover four social insurances, weekly holiday pay, annual leave pay, and severance pay. Due to the nature of the supporting program, there are workers who work for a long time more than 200 hours per month. When they work overtime, they must receive 13,754 won per hour. However the government has set a limit of 9,000 won per hour. Nevertheless, the government has consistently maintained the minimum line as 6,800 won without paying much attention. The government is leading the way in violating the minimum wage.


 For the Social Service Voucher Program, the government is only responsible to set and execute the budget, entrusting actual tasks to the private sector. Therefore, the government-funded support agencies have to either pay the minimum wage of less than 6,800 won or endure a huge deficit. With this kind of structure, it is impossible not only to provide sustainable quality service resulting in sacrifices of the assistant workers. As of 2015, there are 65,300 assistants for people with disabilities in the country. All of them are victims of the government's minimum wage violation.


 Currently, women work in the vast majority of care jobs. Most of workers in governmental Social Services Vouchers, such as elderly care and nursing home care, as well as assistance for people with disabilities are women. The fees for this program is also at the minimum wage level. The society’s poor perception on women's care work is reflected in the government's social service programs, which is taking the low wages of care workers for granted.


 We strongly protests the minimum wage violation for women care workers and demand the followings:


 First, the government must apologize for violating the minimum wage for personal assistants for the persons with disabilities and pay the unpaid wages immediately.

Second, the government must raise the fees of assistance for the persons with disabilities.


June 8, 2016

Korean Women Workers Association, Korea Care Cooperative Association Council

Posted by KWWA

 Are women always disqualified in the labour market?



 The recession is prolonged. Employers are considering voluntary retirement and restructuring. In the meantime, there are more and more female workers who are being resigned without somewhat secretly. Since 2014, the financial sector has undergone structural restructuring in the form of voluntary retirement and revising contract for irregular employment. There were cases of counselling where some companies encouraged women workers, especially women workers who have taken maternity leave to voluntarily resign. Hyundai Heavy Industries also had women workers voluntarily resign, especially those who have been working long period, at a large scale in 2015. Call for Equality(1670-1611) steadily receives calls from female workers who are hanging on the cliff of voluntary retirement.


 Ms. A got a call by the company during her maternity leave. The employer said she could be paid retirement allowance if she retires immediately after the maternity leave, while she is at the risk of being fired for low performance in case of rejection. She had been working for the company for 15 years. She ended up adding her name on the list of voluntary retirees.


 As seen in the case of Ms. A, there is an increasing number of ways to exert pressure on female workers to dismiss women for pregnancy and childbirth. In order to overcome the low birthrate, the government tried to prevent the disadvantages caused by pregnancy and childbirth for female workers in various ways. However, under the name of labor reform, companies are pressing workers to resign by using the guideline on dismissal of low performers since last year,


 Women workers are the first to be laid off when a financial crisis approaches. This has been repeated over and over again in history. During IMF economic crisis, being a woman was a explicit reason for dismissal. In 1998, 91.2% of calls for counseling received by Call for Equality were about working condition. Back then, maternal rights, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment in the workplace were hardly addressed. These ‘slaughtered’ regular female workers were forced to work for the same position with half of the wage they used to receive as irregular workers.


 Female workers were the ones who sharply decreased during the financial crisis from the end of 2007. The difference, however, was that the dismissal was secretly practiced. During the IMF economic crisis, regular women workers’ posts were replaced by various types of irregular workers, such as temporary workers, daily workers, part-time workers, dispatched workers, and service workers. Irregular workers functioned as a safety net that can absorb risks in every recession or economic crisis. Because the contract was terminated through a 'fair' procedure of termination, workers were not able to fight against it. The fact that 75% of the jobs lost during the 2007 financial crisis were female jobs also implies that the restructuring was discrimination against women in nature.


 Although the recent economic recession has been prolonged and corporate restructuring has begun to take off, statistics have yet to reveal the impact on women workers. On the contrary, statistics for March 2016 show that the increase in female employees is more than that of the same month of last year. Most of them, however, are women in their fifth and sixth decades who entered in the labor market because of financial difficulty. They have no choice but to accept hourly, irregular jobs and work at low wages.


 Working condition for female workers is worsening, considering that the majority of female workers are irregular workers, and the gender wage gap is also increasing every year. This was accelerated by recent trend in increasing hourly jobs for women to boost employment rate of women. In such a vulnerable situation, female workers who wish to contribute to the household in the prolonged recession period are repeatedly taking precarious jobs and being asked to leave the jobs.


 Ms. B might have to move the department against her will. There will be a team reorganization next week and rumors are circulating that only 4 women of the team will be transferred. The department in question is known to accommodate soon-to-retire workers for a short period.


 The case of Ms. B is not directly caused by gender discrimination in a practical sense as the transfer to the unimportant department also involves male workers. But one can reasonably doubt the company’s intension reflecting the existing practices of placing women workers to the petty department which usually leads to workers’ resignation.


 Tae-im Kim, the head of the Call for Equality said, “Never write a resignation letter when you are asked resignation and not going to work because of anger doesn’t help because it is an unauthorized absence.” She also advised to calm down and consult with labor organizations.


 During the IMF crisis, women were laid off because they were women and women workers are not the primary earners in the family. Still in 2016, the employers are forcing workers to voluntarily leave the company under the name of layoffs on low performers. The blade of dismissal is aiming at women with more cunning lies.

Posted by KWWA

티스토리 툴바