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(LEAD) Ahn pledges to improve job quality, reduce working hours

All News 17:28 April 19, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in paras 5-10; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- Presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo pledged Wednesday to improve the quality of jobs and enhance their fairness if elected in the upcoming vote.

The nominee of the center-left People's Party made the pledge during a visit to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, one of the two largest umbrella labor organizations in the country.

Ahn Cheol-soo (R), presidential nominee of the People's Party, speaks to officials of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions at the organization's headquarters in Seoul on April 19, 2017. (Yonhap)

"I will change the direction of jobs policy to focus on improving the quality of jobs and heightening their fairness, rather than simply increasing their number," he said. "I will put right the wrong and failed policies that were pursued under the (previous) Park Geun-hye administration."

The former software mogul said he would drastically reduce the number of irregular jobs and raise salaries at small and medium-sized firms to make them appealing to the youth. He earlier announced plans to provide government support to temporarily hike the salaries of youths at small and medium-sized enterprises to 80 percent of what their counterparts at large businesses receive. They currently receive about 60 percent.

"I will strengthen the supervision of workplaces to ensure labor laws are properly upheld at the workplace and reinforce education on the human rights related to labor across all sectors," he said.

Ahn promised to introduce compulsory education on such human rights in elementary through high schools and establish a system to force employers who deliberately or habitually delay wage payments to pay employees double the amount due.

He also unveiled plans to shorten working hours to some 1,800 per year. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Koreans worked an average of 2,113 hours in 2015.

"Many young people are suffering due to the low minimum wage," Ahn said. "About 3 million people are receiving less than what is required by the minimum wage. It is our resolve to make (employers) follow the law."

He pledged to raise the minimum hourly wage from the current 6,470 won (US$5.67) to 10,000 won within his five-year term if elected on May 9.

Ahn is seen to be in a two-way race for the top elected office with Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party.


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