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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on July 10)

National 07:03 July 10, 2020

Don't take away the youth's hope

The question of fairness in public sector employment does not stop at Incheon International Airport Corp., which stirred public outrage with its decision to put 1,900 outsourced security guards on permanent payroll of the public company. The findings from a joint study on the promotions of permanent positions at 853 public corporations under central and local governments by the JoongAng Ilbo and the office of United Future Party (UFP) Rep. Yoo Gyeong-joon are shocking.

Since the government carried out President Moon Jae-in's campaign promise to make "zero" irregular positions in the public sector, 173,943 employees -- or 41.9 percent of the total 415,602 hired by 853 public institutions on a contract basis -- were promoted to permanent status as of January. Hires at 310 workplaces gained permanent status without going through tests or other performance reviews. They were promoted in a blanket measure without any evaluation guidelines.

Only 38, or 4.5 percent, of the public entities carried out competitive screenings for the promotions. The other 474 workplaces mixed blanket and selective promotions.

If budget allows, irregular workers should be given equal compensation for the work they do. But a spike in payroll could further worsen the bottom line of public enterprises already in serious debt. Many local governments must rely on subsidies from the central government. The bulk of public enterprises incur massive losses.

The conversion of irregular workers merely to oblige with the president's campaign promise can cause other side effects. It can steal job opportunities for young people. If irregular workers are upgraded to permanent status without clear achievements, openings for new recruits will shrink.

Youth joblessness is worsening with a scarcity in new openings amid the coronavirus. Job openings on average have a competition ratio of 100 to one. However, just because a temporary hire had been in the right place at the right time, he or she may be awarded a job for life. It is why the youth are so outraged by the Incheon Airport case. If rationalization in the wage system does not follow after the conversion, labor costs will go up and public management will become more complacent. The cost will be translated onto taxpayers.

In his inauguration speech in May 2017, President Moon Jae-in vowed that he'd fight for equality, fairness and justice for all. But things have taken a polar opposite turn over the past three years. It is essential that the labor market not be tainted further by politics.
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