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Job Insecurity Plaguing Temporary Workers

Posted September. 05, 2009 08:05,   


The situation for temporary workers remains precarious though the country averted a feared mass of layoffs in July, the results of a Labor Ministry survey released yesterday said.

The survey showed that 7,320 of 19,760 temporary workers, or 37.1 percent, lost their jobs after their yearly contracts expired in July. The percentage was not as high as expected, but many failed to become regular workers. Only 36.8 percent or 7,276 became regular workers.

The number of temporary workers whose jobs remain at risk, that is, they were neither fired nor made permanent staff, was 5,164 or 26.1 percent.

The ministry released the results of the survey on the implementation of the Non-regular Workers Law on 14,331 workplaces with more than five temporary workers conducted between July 16 and Aug. 12. The law took effect July 1.

Those who became regular staff did not become permanent in the true sense. Some received opportunities for promotion or compensation as they signed an indefinite contract, while others simply saw the form of contracts change.

The problem is the share of workers (26.1 percent) who were not made permanent and were reclassified as “others”; employers simply offered a new contract (61.5 percent) or maintained the temporary one despite the law’s implementation (29.8 percent) or had no plan to make them regular (8.7 percent).

The employers either did not know the implementation of the temporary workers law or pretended that they did not know.

This was especially so at small and mid-size companies. A car parts manufacturer in Incheon retained three skilled workers who had each finished two-year contracts because it was a win-win situation for both sides. The three wanted to keep their jobs and the company had difficulty finding replacements for them.

Similarly, when temporary workers with more than two years of duty continue working, they become regular workers legally. If they are included, the number of workers who became regular workers is 12,485 or 62.9 percent. This is much higher than the 30 percent claimed by the Labor Ministry in emphasizing the need to revise the temporary workers law.

Consequently, the ministry is alleged to have exaggerated the fear of massive layoffs before July.

Skeptics, however, say the extension of temporary worker contracts is a time bomb waiting to go off.

The National Statistical Office study on the economically active population in March found the number of non-regular workers at 5,374,000. Given that the percentage of workers with lack of job security, including laid-off and temporary workers, is 63.1 percent, more than three million temporary workers must keep enduring job instability.

The situation is especially urgent for 382,000 workers whose contracts end in June next year.

A Labor Ministry source said, “Since job insecurity is expected to be here to stay, we will give stricter administrative guidelines to encourage (employers) to make (temporary workers) regular staff.”