By Jun Ji-hye
More part-time jobs will be made available in order to ease unemployment.
The government and the ruling Saenuri Party said on Tuesday that they are jointly working on a piece of legislation for a tentatively-titled "Part-time Job Development Law."
"The Saenuri Party is pondering legislative action to systemize part-time work expansion. Our policy committee is examining the issue intensively now," said Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, the ruling party floor leader.
Choi's comment came a day after President Park Geun-hye stressed that more part-time jobs need to be created in order to achieve a target employment rate of 70 percent.
Choi said there are many good part-time jobs in other countries, enabling women to manage both work and their households at the same time.
"Such a social climate is necessary in Korea. Part-time work will also play a role in reducing working hours and creating more jobs," said Choi.
At a meeting with her senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae, President Park said Monday, "There is a perception in Korean society that working by the hour is not a proper job because Korean people are used to working full time. But many developed nations have a significant number of part-time workers."
Park said social prejudice that regards part-time work as a poor form of employment should be eradicated, stressing that the core to achieving this is enabling the participation of more female workers.
The government and the ruling party are preparing measures to provide various tax benefits and expand national support for companies that take an active part in recruiting more part-time workers. The government currently provides those companies with a maximum of 600,000 won ($530) per person, for a year.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok has said: "Achieving a 70 percent employment rate is the first priority goal of President Park's economic policy. Expanding part time jobs is a highly effective way to create jobs and will help women and young job seekers."
However, opposition parties opposed the move, saying the measure will only cause a massive expansion of non-regular workers.
"Equal pay for equal work has not been settled in Korea. Expanding part-time employees will only cause social conflict," said Jun Byung-hun, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP).
DP spokesman, Kim Kwan-young, claimed that President Park does not seem to sufficiently understand the cause of the current employment problems.
"She just called for increased awareness of part-timers without mentioning the need for improving working conditions. This is just absurd," said Kim.
Hong Sung-kyu, the spokesman for the Unified Progressive Party, echoed: "Park's proposal is very embarrassing. We were not able to feel her sincerity because she never referred to issues regarding non-regular workers, the most serious problem in labor issues."