Thursday, July 8, 2010

Labor Ministry to focus on jobs

Aimed at strengthening its job creating role, the Labor Ministry on Monday changed its name to “Ministry of Employment and Labor.”

The change of the ministry‘s name came 29 years after the labor office was elevated to a government department.

“Creating more jobs, helping people who want to work and ensuring they get paid properly are the main purposes and values that we have to seek,” Minister Yim Tae-hee said during a relaunching ceremony held at the Gwacheon Government Complex in Gyeonggi Province.

He pledged, in particular, to support senior citizens to continue social activities, saying “People’s lifecycle has been changed due to a falling birthrate and an aging society. Those who used to be said of being old should not be considered senior citizens any more.”

Employment and Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee talks with a job-seeker at a labor market in Seoul on Monday. Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald

Following the Tuesday meeting of Cabinet members, which will decide on job creation projects at 24 government offices, the Employment Ministry is expected to take a leadership role to inspect and oversee all new programs.

The ministry’s title shift came amid some pending issues deepening labor-management tensions.

As part of a revision to the labor union law in January, employers are banned from paying full-time union officials.

Even though the paid time-off system, which partly allows payment, was introduced from July 1 to protect smaller unions, labor groups have claimed that related rules are limiting the normal activities of labor unions.

Of the 1,320 workplaces that are monitored by the ministry, 362 had signed collective agreements as of Sunday. However, 21 were found to have violated the upper limit in the number of payable full-time unionists.

Meanwhile, the Minimum Wage Council decided on Saturday to increase next year’s minimum hourly wage to 4,320 won ($3.5).

Management representatives, especially smaller business owners, had demanded to freeze the current level at 4,110 won, citing the uncertainty in the recent economic turnaround. However, other representatives from labor and the government agreed on the 5.1 percent increase.

Management representatives claimed to freeze the current level, citing the uncertainty in the recent economic turnaround. But other Minimum Wage Council members from the government and labor agreed on the 5.1 percent increase.

The minister also acknowledged that the time-off system puts pressure on the self-support efforts of labor unions, while the increased minimum wage will become a burden to businesses.

“But those issues will be helpful to raise the value of labor. Through continuous discussions, I believe, advanced labor culture will be created here,” he said.

By Lee Ji-yoon (

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