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Policy Directions for Non-Regular Work in the Public Sector

Non-regular work has been on the policy agenda for the past 7-8 years. Discussions at the Tripartite Commission and the Special Committee on Measures for Non-Regular Workers led to the drafting of legislation to protect non-regular workers, but this bill, has been held up at the National Assembly for the past year and a half due to hard-lined opinions within both labor and management and neglect on the part of parliament. Through excruciating efforts, the bill passed through the National Assembly Environment and Labor Committee, but it is unfortunately still waiting for a decision by the Legislative and Judiciary Committee. The Ministry of Labor, on its part, drafted a Comprehensive Plan to Improve Employment Conditions for Non-Regular Workers, and reported on this plan to the President of the Republic of Korea at a recent special reporting session.

The Participatory Government has consistently called for the prudent use of non-regular workers and for their equal treatment. In March 2003, the Ministry of Labor reported to the President that it would set an example for the private sector labor market by carrying out a far-reaching survey on non-regular work in the public sector in order to stop the misuse and abuse of non-regular workers and resolve any discrimination against them. The results of the 2003 survey on public sector non-regular work clearly showed that a considerable amount of non-regular work was being utilized in the public sector, and that the public sector was no different from the private sector in terms of discrimination in compensation and job security. The survey noted that the situation of non-regular workers in the public sector had been deteriorated through public sector restructuring efforts that had been implemented as part of the government’s drive for structural reform in all four major sectors of the economy. In order to work around newly implemented restrictions on the maximum number of regular employees and to boost numbers related to management performance through the reduction of labor costs, organizations in the public sector started to rely quite heavily on non-regular workers.
This discrepancy between principles and practice in the Participatory Government was the focus of efforts such as the establishment in May 2004 of the “Measures on Public Sector Non-Regular Workers”, an initiative that, to some degree, contributed to increased job security and better treatment for public sector non-regular workers. But it would only be fair to say that success was extremely limited. Fundamental issues were not resolved. No principles were established for non-regular worker utilization; subcontracting structures kept on expanding; discrimination was prevalent; and outsourcing continued to worsen working conditions.
In April 2006, the Comprehensive Plan for Non-Regular Workers was dealt with at the 73rd National Policy Task Conference, where the President requested the establishment of comprehensive measures particularly for the public sector. Upon this request, the Meeting for Policy Coordination on National Priority Tasks decided to establish a “Committee on Measures for Non-Regular Workers in the Public Sector” that was to be chaired by the Minister of Labor, along with work committees and task forces to support the activities of the Committee. A number of related government organizations and the Korea Labor Institute participated in these activities, which included a complete survey on the utilization of non-regular workers in a total of 10,198 public organizations (54 central government organizations, 250 local government organizations, 401 corporations and affiliates, and 9,493 national and public education organizations) and in-depth interviews of 68 of these organizations. This paper sets forth principles for the utilization of non-regular workers in the public sector, based upon the findings of the survey and interviews.

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