UPDATE : 2017.10.17 화 20:55

[Vol. 76] Imperfectness of the current minimum wage system

김주현 기자l승인2016.11.30l수정2016.11.25 22:47

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Han Min-gyu, a KNUE freshman who majors in physical education, worked at the convenience store near KNUE last semester. The minimum wage increase was not a big deal to him because the owner did not pay him minimum wage. According to him, he was paid 5,400 won per hour and it was far below the minimum wage this year, which is set to 6,030. He said, “I don’t know what the arguments about minimum wage increase are worth in the situation that workers are not guaranteed to be paid.” Likewise, there are some points to be examined in the system of minimum wage as well as in the arguments about the sharp increase of it.

About the procedure for the decision of minimum wage by Minimum Wage Council, at least three questions can be pointed out. First, the current method to appoint members of the council might hinder the fairness. The council is comprised of 27 members, 9 of which represent users, another 9 represent public interests, and the others represent workers. It looks quite fair, but the problem is that the minister of the Ministry of Employment and Labor recommends all and the president appoints them. It is not too much to say that the minister actually nominates them. Second, the council holds the meeting behind closed doors. The increase rate of the minimum wage is one of the most sensitive issues because it is closely related to living of people and economy industry. Accordingly, it is natural for the public to wonder how the increase rate is drawn. The results of each conference are reported by the report materials from the council or articles. There is no way, however, to verify what’s happening inside the conference room. Lastly, the members of the council just stick to their own position, making coordination more difficult. Take the case of this year, for example. To decide the minimum wage of 2017, record-breaking 14 times of full sessions of the council were held during 108 days, longer than the statutory period. Moreover, worker representatives did not show up, so the final decision was made without any of them. Similar situations always happen every year, and it arouses a question about whether the council runs well.

The legal system of the minimum wage has been changed to correct its faults, but there are some problems that still exist. According to The Minimum Wage Act, there are some types of workers whom users don’t have to pay for minimum wage. Among them, workers who are in a period of probation can get 90% of the minimum wage in accordance with the law. Some users, however, make an ill use of it for the sake of themselves. They make a contract of only one year because they should pay minimum wage to the workers who make a contract under one year with them. After the period expired, they just fire the workers to employ new workers who work for them less than a year.Moreover, the users of the disabled worker do not have to pay them minimum wage, and the reason might be that they lack work efficiency than the non-disabled because of their physical or psychological conditions. However, some people insist that it is the violation of equality and that the disabled need more money for their medical cures, assist devices, and so on. Furthermore, only about three countries including Korea exclude the handicapped about applying minimum wage. Kim Byeong-wook, the lawmaker belonging to the Minjoo Party of Korea, said, “Disability Discrimination Act prohibit the discrimination of the disabled in the aspect of wage and welfare, and for this reason, the country must ensure the minimum wage for them.”

These are by no means the end of the matter. In the process of applying the minimum wage to reality, some limitations can be identified. On August 10, 2016, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy published Minimum Wage Report: Result of Labor Inspection in 2015 after they examined the results of the labor inspection from the Ministry of Employment and Labor. According to it, the Ministry exposed 6,318 workers who were paid under the minimum wage by the inspection, but it was only 0.28% of the total number of them, about 2.2 million. It also exposed 919 violated cases and the figure was less than half the number of cases in 2010 which was 2,077. This can be interpreted that the number of the violated cases is on the decrease. It is not true, however, because the number of reported cases is increasing sharply on the contrary and it seems like rather a fluctuation, not a decrease. What’s more, the Ministry did not take judicial actions to most businesses which violated the Minimum Wage Act. The report said only two percent of total exposed cases by the inspection were punished judicially, while 42.1% of total reported cases got judicial actions. An official of Labor Relations Committee said “Penalty levels for cases exposed by inspection of the Ministry of Employment and Labor seem quite low compared with a lot of cases reported by workers to require protection of their rights. It’s because of the labor inspection system which is concerned with corrective orders over judicial actions about the violation of the act.”

The governments always try to satisfy exploding demands of the nation, and the results are governmental system from the various field. The start of the minimum wage system was aimed at a lofty goal of guaranteeing living of public. The systematic problems, however, have been detected after it came into real life. It might be because the institutional strategies for pursuing its aim are in incompleteness yet. The matter is urged to be improved urgently, but it may be asked whether it can be handled well.


김주현 기자  wngus7061@naver.com
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