'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

- Press conference of labor and women groups for the abolition of discriminatory practices for married women workers with declaration of boycott for Kumbokju

On the 29th of March at 11:30 a.m., a priest punched a sign that reads retirement after marriage with his fist with all his strength in Gwanghwamun Square. It was a part of the press conference that Women and labor groups such as the Korea Women Workers Association and the National Women's Labor Union held in Gwanghwamun Square. It was held to condemn the Ministry of Employment and Labor for failing to supervise as well as to declare a nationwide boycott on Kumbokju, which has been forcing married female workers to retire for 58 years.


 The retirement due to marriage is still alive in our society despite our belief, at least in Kumbokju. Ms. A, who was working for the company was forced to retire after informing the company of her marriage. After she turned it down, an executive came and said that it was the company's practice to quit when a worker gets married. In fact, there are no married women workers among the white-collar workers in the company. The employers have operated the company in this way for 58 years since its founding without any sanctions. This was revealed when Ms. A appealed to the Ministry of Employment and Labor.


 This case created a big stir In Daegu. Local women 's groups called for apology and prevention of recurrence of the same practices in joint actions. Kumbokju made a superficial apology. During this process, Park Hong-koo, the CEO of the company, generated a bigger controversy by saying that the company didn’t recruit female workers because they weren’t necessary. The right of women workers to work regardless of their marital status is also specified in the Constitution and the Equal Employment Act. Also, Chapter 2 of the Equal Employment Act stipulates equal opportunities and treatment for men and women.


 Women's groups in Daegu will declare boycott campaign on Kumbokju and will hold a launching ceremony tomorrow. The women groups present in the press conference declared a nationwide boycott.


 Jin-kyung Bae, Co-representative of Korean Women Workers Association said that we are living in the era of regression. She commented that she wishes to live in a country where basic labor rights for women are ensured pointing out the fact that practice of forcing resignation to married women is still in place, which was supposed to have been abolished by the Equal Employment Act enacted on 1988.


 The Chairperson of National Women's Labor Union and Chairman, Ji Hyun Na said that no persons in the National Assembly and the government is taking responsibility for this matter. She claimed that it is caused by the Ministry of Employment and Labor since it has overlooked such practices for 58 years.


 The acting commissioner of the KCTU, Jong-jin Choi, openly declared that the 80,000 union members of the KCTU will take the lead for the boycott campaign against Kumbokju.


 The women and labor groups that hosted the press conference are planning to carry out nationwide boycott campaign against Kumbokju. They will show how companies that do not observe the business ethics can face difficulties in management. At the same time, they will ask for a meeting to the Ministry of Employment and Labor to demand an nationwide investigation on the violation of the Equal Employment Act with a focus on Seongseo Industrial Complex in Dague, where Kumbokju is located.



<Press conference statement>


 In 1985, women groups insisted on eliminating the retirement age for women. At that time, the average age of marriage for women was 26, which led to an assumption that they can stay in the labor market only until the age of 25. It was a fight against early retirement at the age of 25. The 1987 Act on the Equal Employment Act stipulates the right not to be discriminated due to marriage. Since then, the practices of women's early retirement have gradually disappeared in our society.


 Nevertheless in 2016, we are facing bizarre situations. The retirement due to marriage, which we thought already disappeared, was roaming like a ghost. It took place in Kumbokju, a major liquor company in Daegu. All female workers have been laid off after their marriage for 58 years since the establishment of the company. There is only one female worker who has been promoted for last 58 years. Corporate executives urged women workers to resign, saying that it was the customary of the company when female workers were refusing resignation after marriage. Certain female worker had to go through exemption from important tasks, unjustified transfer of the team and even group bullying. The situation is bitter, just like the taste of Soju, the strong alcohol of 30 percent proof.


 In Daegu, women groups are demanding to Kumbokju in great solidarity to apologize, prevent reoccurrence, eliminate gender discrimination and establish a system that can ensure sustainable work for women. Currently, these groups are participating in boycott campaign. boycott. However, the problem presents not only in Daegu. As Kumbokju is running its business throughout the country, boycotting needs to be conducted beyond Daegu. Today we declare the boycott against Kumbokju. We urge the employers of Kumbokju to build a sustainable environment for female workers as soon as possible.


 We were also surprised that this kind if “custom" had survived without any resistance for 58 years. It is also astonishing that the Ministry of Employment and Labor did not know it at all. Isn’t it that the Ministry of Employment and Labor actually a hidden supporter of the Kumbokju? The Ministry of Employment and Labor always says that they can not take measures until there are specific incidents. They send back women workers who want counselling for maternity leave, insisting that they can come again after the right is actually violated. Cases are dealt with mere formality rather than aiming for the prevention of problems. The case of Kumbokju was revealed by a report of a female worker who was forced resignation.


 But we know. One of the important roles of the Ministry of Employment and Labor is the supervision of work places, not just handling cases. We can also easily assume that the second and third cases similar to Kumbokju’s can be found elsewhere. The Ministry of Employment and Labor must thoroughly supervise whether there are companies that violate the Gender Equality Employment Act around the workplace of Kumbokju and beyond.


 We need to address this issue before any incident occurs. It is too late to wait until victims and their families suffer unnecessary agony. We are talking about the rights explicitly ensured by laws. Is it too much to expect to live in a country where basic rights are ensured?


 We demand the following:

- Build a system that allows women workers sustainable work as soon as possible!

- The Ministry of Employment and Labor must carry out a nationwide special investigation on violations of the Gender Equality Employment Act starting from Seongseo Industrial Complex!


 We also declare boycott of all products of the Kumbokju until the case is resolved.


March 29, 2016

Woman Labor Law Support Center, Women's Committee of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, National Women's Labor Union, Federation of Korean Trade Unions, Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, Korean Women Workers Union, Korean Women's Association United, Women Link

Posted by KWWA

 Today, the ministries concerned jointly announced plans to strengthen the linkage between the employment of youth and women. The government still has not attained a fundamental view on the issue of female work. The key to the solution of the problem is the recognition that female work is low-wage and ancillary; also the fact that even workers with professional position are pushed out in their forties.


 Women are discouraged to work because of childcare and career breaks easily occur for them. Because female workers are concentrated in low-wage and ancillary jobs. As of August 2015, the average wage for male irregular worker is 53.7% (1,790,000 won) of what male regular workers receive (3,340,000 won). Female regular workers are paid 68.7% (2,229,000 won) while female irregular workers only receive 36.3% (1,219,000 won). 55.4% of irregular workers who are receiving an average of 1.21 million won a month are all female. Measures for improving employment for women must be taken with a focus on closing the gender wage gap, which is ranking as the worst among OECD countries, and solving the problem of irregular workers.


 In addition, the government-announced work-family balance policies are still focused on women, even though women are not only responsible for the current problem. Reducing working hours for men and women is the key to the reconciliation of work and family. Gender equality culture should be established both in work places and at home. However, the government is still setting the policy on the premise that women will work for the remaining time after taking the responsibility of childcare alone.


 Why is the government always working on minor issues, avoiding looking into the core of the matter? We would like to conclude this comment with some questions that came after the government’s plan.


1. Promote use of maternity leave and prevent career discontinuation of old age or high-risk mothers by acknowledging pregnancy as a cause of maternity leave.

-> Civil servants and teachers can use pregnancy leave. Why should workers in the private sector use childcare leave for pregnancy?


2. Promote use of maternity leave and parental leave and prevent unfair dismissal by linking and monitoring the data of health insurance and employment insurance

-> Voices of the field are not reflected as the biggest obstacle in taking the maternity leave is lack of the employer's approval.

-> It is like a doctor coming after the death. How could we secure the effectiveness of preventive measures?


3. Where can we see a way for a irregular woman worker to use pregnancy leave and maternity leave?


4. Expand introduction of a system of flexitime for certain period starting from the government and public institutions.

-> Isn’t it more urgent to provide options for setting a certain period for current flexitime workers?

-> Why only women are required to find a flexitime job?


5. Enhance the effectiveness of active measures for improvement of employment. Consider the indicators for work-family balance for evaluation including existence of day care centers, use of flexitime system, use of paternity leave. Announce the bad practices when the employers fail to meet the requirements.

-> This only applies to workplace with more than 500 employees. Expanding the range of application, specifying the type of employment, specifying the position of the management, introducing penalties and incentives are required for effective operation of the policy.


Co-representative of Korean Women Workers Association,

Yun-ok Lim, Jin-kyung Bae

Posted by KWWA

 The reality of women workers living in Korea is as follows.


 About 8.5 million female workers, about 4.7 million, taking up 55.4% of the total, are irregular workers. Once the United Nations Commission on Women advised the Korean government to reduce the number of women irregular workers. The wage gap between men and women is the highest in the OECD countries, and the wage of women irregular workers is only 36.3% of the one of men.


 Under such circumstances, the government is pursuing labor reform that enables employers to dismiss workers by the effectiveness of performance. With practices and cultures of current labor market, women workers are likely to be the first to be considered as low performers. Also only 1% of female irregular workers are organized for collective actions. Therefore, non-regular female workers who do not have collective agreements are subject to the rules of employment. We remember the fact that women workers were the first to be laid off during the last IMF financial crisis.


 The problems of female workers whose career is interrupted because of the difficulty of balancing work and family life. Still in these days, female workers are being laid off for pregnancy, childbirth and childcare, and discriminatory culture and practices continues in terms of sexual harassment as well as employment and wages.


 The minimum wage is 6,030 won per hour in 2016, and the monthly salary is 1,260,000 won per month. The minimum wage is the actual wage for the majority of 4.7 million non-regular women workers. The number of indirectly employed workers, such as in cleaning services, where many middle-aged female workers are working, is increasing amounting to be more than 2 million.


 The realities of the public sector, which is supposed to have a modeling role, are not different. There are 470,000 irregular workers in the public sector, and 130,000 underemployed workers are paid less than the minimum wage. Among them, 370,000 irregular workers work in schools. Excluding irregular teachers, dispatched workers, and fixed-term teachers, about 150,000 are left and 93.4% of them are women. The union members in schools, who make up the majority of women's labor unions in the nation, plan to continue efforts to resolve discrimination by improving wages and collective agreements starting with the general strike of Jeonbuk branch on the 8th of April.


 Women’s child care and care work for the elderly are considered unpaid care work or regarded insignificant. Home care workers, estimated to be 300,000, are not even recognized as workers, and are working in harsh working conditions, being exposed to job insecurity, wage depreciation, unfair treatment, long or too short work hours.


 In short, the problem is that no environment is secured where women workers can work safely and comfortably. The demands and wishes of our women workers can be put into a sentence; “Ensure the right of women workers to work safely!”


 On April 13, we will vote to elect lawmakers. We will carefully select candidates who want to improve the reality of women workers by thoroughly examining whether they have wills and alternatives to solve the problems of women workers, and whether there are commitments and policies for the problems of irregular workers. We will also continue to monitor.


 The National Women’s Labor Union and the Korean Women Workers Association will carry out the campaign ‘The Right of Women Workers to Work Safely’ throughout the whole country in order to change this reality little by little.


 From today, women workers in the nation are united to demand the followings for the year 2016.


 Six Wishes of Female Workers in 2016

 First, immediately stop labor reform that will further fuel the job insecurity of 8 million women!

 First, strengthen the system for pregnancy, childbirth and childcare to harmonize work and family life, and take aggressive measures to eliminate the culture and practices of sexual discrimination at work including sexual harassment!

 First, female workers are poor even though they work hard! Raise the minimum wage to 10,000 won to ensure a basic living!

 First, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Education must take the lead in resolving the discrimination against women and irregular workers by actively addressing the demands of the irregular workers in the schools, 93.4% of which are female workers.

 First, recognize domestic workers as legal workers! Establish special laws and create more jobs for protection of female workers!

 First, protect care services for public interests and improve labor rights and treatment of care workers!


March 14, 2016

National Women's Labor Union, Korean Women Workers Association


Posted by KWWA