Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Give me a break

A bill extending the retirement age to 60 was passed in the national assembly Tuesday.

[Original Post]

The Korea Times reported yesterday on a "bill proposing workers be granted another holiday when a national holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday":
Saramin, an online recruiter, said 94 percent of respondents said lawmakers should approve the “alternative holiday bill” in the survey conducted by the company on 999 employees in the country between April 16 and 25.

“Six out of 10 respondents expected ‘alternative holidays’ would boost their quality of life while 40 percent of them said the holidays would help them focus on their jobs more efficiently,” said the company.

Asked how they would spend the days off, about a quarter of the employees said they would rest. Twenty-one percent said they would take trips, followed by 19 percent who wanted to spend more time with their families. The others said they would study or enjoy hobbies.

The survey result came two days after the nation’s five major employer groups announced their opposition to the bill, pressuring lawmakers not to approve it. They argued that, if the bill is passed, it would cool business sentiment seriously. [...]

Last week, lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties at a subcommittee of the National Assembly agreed to seek approval of the bill at the plenary session, reigniting the debate on alternative holidays.

However, pressured by the business groups, they decided to postpone putting the bill to a vote until later in September. The bill needs to be approved in the committee and the plenary session before going into effect as a law.
An Arirang report quoted a Korea Employers' Federation spokesperson who said, "Firms with shift operations will suffer a four billion dollar loss because of higher labor costs. Productivity will be compromised, too, because workers will work less."

I imagine he's happy with the delay:

(Notices blood on lips, licks them, says, "Ah, precious blood.")

It should be remembered that when Korean companies and the public sector switched to a five day work week (in 2005 or so?), which gave employees Saturdays off, Arbour Day (April 6) and Constitution Day (July 17) lost their public holiday status. The inclusion of Hangeul Day as a public holiday is nice, but it's not like another holiday in October was really needed, was it? Not that I'm complaining, of course.

According to this SBS report, the bill is a little more complicated - if the Lunar New Year or Chuseok holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday, they will be made up for, but all other holidays will only be 'replaced' if they fall on a Sunday. In other words, if the bill was in place, in 2013 there would be three extra days; in 2014, two; in 2015, three, and in 2016, four. Over the next four years, then, there would an average of three extra days off a year. Clearly, this must be stopped.

A Donga Ilbo article delves into some of the complexities surrounding the bill:
The proposal to designate a weekday as an “alternative holiday” if a national holiday falls on Sunday was a campaign pledge by Moon Jae-in, the former presidential candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party, not President Park Geun-hye’s. During last year’s presidential campaign period, Moon pledged to introduce alternative holidays to promote the leisure industry as an economic growth engine.

However, the alternative holiday system has been included in major state tasks drawn up by Park’s presidential transition committee in February, even though it was not a promise made by the president. As the National Assembly is moving to pass a bill on the alternative holiday system, the administration, which is supposed to implement the major state tasks, is trying to dissuade lawmakers from enacting the bill.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has long been trying to introduce the alternative holiday system, as nothing is more effective in promoting culture and tourism industries than to have more holidays. The Culture and Tourism Institute, a state-funded think tank under the ministry, claimed in 2010 that the introduction of alternative holidays would create 85,000 jobs and the effect on production inducement worth 4.9 trillion won (4.4. billion U.S. dollars). However, the ministry’s attempts have been foiled by the business community and other economy-related ministries and agencies.
It's interesting how the amount mentioned above as a benefit is similar to what the Korea Employers' Federation spokesperson said would be lost. The article goes on to describe how there was disagreement within the presidential transition committee regarding including the alternative holiday system into the major state tasks, and now the Park administration has excluded this bill from a list of 204 tasks that require legislative action, likely due to the complaints from business organizations.

The article also mentions that "Some said that the system required only a revision of a presidential decree, rather than enactment." This is also echoed in the SBS article, which notes that there is no Law regarding public holidays, only a presidential decree. The SBS article also mentions that, while the bill would benefit people working for large companies or government employees, the self-employed and day labourers opposed it, as did housewives. I can understand the first two, but am scratching my head regarding the latter. There must be a lot of unhappy housewives out there who don't want to spend three more days a year with their families. Happy early Children's Day and Parent's Day, indeed. Too bad the former is on a Sunday this year...


K said...

Housewives seem to dread Chuseok and Seolnal. They are used for cooking,cleaning and taking care of kids while the men smoke, gamble, and drink. It's not surprising they don't want three more days of this.

Dodo said...

Simply enforcing the five-day work week would also be enough, but then again, why would you want to force male employees to spend more time with their families.