END­ING HIR­ING DIS­CRIM­I­NA­TION

Govt to re­vise work­place laws, is­sue guide­lines on ques­tions firms can ask job seek­ers

New Straits Times - - Business -

WHEN Joo Yerim, 28, ap­plied for a job at an art dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany, here, last year, she was re­quired to pro­vide her height and weight on the ap­pli­ca­tion. The ex­pe­ri­ence left her an­gry and frus­trated.

“That has noth­ing to do with my abil­ity to work,” said Joo, a univer­sity grad­u­ate who had in­terned at sim­i­lar com­pa­nies in the United States.

The ques­tions faced by Joo, who even­tu­ally landed a po­si­tion at an art mag­a­zine, would bring an avalanche of com­plaints and a con­sumer boy­cott in many coun­tries. In oth­ers, the firm would be hauled be­fore the courts. But in South Korea, em­ploy­ers rou­tinely de­mand such in­for­ma­tion, along with per­sonal de­tails like an ap­pli­cant’s age, re­li­gion and even the oc­cu­pa­tions of their fam­ily mem­bers.

It adds up to what Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in says is dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple who are less af­flu­ent or de­vi­ate from the main­stream. Moon pledged dur­ing his cam­paign to pro­hibit such prac­tices as part of his fight against grow­ing in­equal­ity, par­tic­u­larly in the job mar­ket.

As South Korea con­tin­ues to move up the value chain from heavy in­dus­try to a more cre­ative econ­omy, di­ver­sity will be­come more im­por­tant.

Many young peo­ple, even those with col­lege de­grees, see them­selves as largely ex­cluded from ca­reers, with lit­tle chance of be­ing able to af­ford to get mar­ried and raise chil­dren.

Some­times the in­for­ma­tion sought by com­pa­nies veers into strange ter­ri­tory.

Yang Changmo, 26, said he was once re­quired to pro­vide his blood type, and was fre­quently asked about his “drink­ing and smok­ing ca­pac­ity” dur­ing in­ter­views. Heavy drink­ing with col­leagues is a core el­e­ment of the coun­try’s work cul­ture.

“I think they chose me over the fe­male ap­pli­cant with al­most the same qual­i­fi­ca­tions as mine be­cause I said I was a good drinker,” said Yang, who worked in the hotel in­dus­try be­fore quit­ting to find a new po­si­tion.

Moon’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is work­ing to ful­fil his pledges.

It would is­sue guide­lines on ques­tions pri­vate com­pa­nies could ask later this month, be­fore re­vis­ing work­place laws to make those guide­lines bind­ing, said the labour and fi­nance min­istries in a joint state­ment.

The gov­ern­ment is al­ready tak­ing ac­tion in the pub­lic sec­tor.

By the end of this month, 481 pub­lic of­fices and com­pa­nies will be banned from ask­ing job seek­ers for cer­tain per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing fam­ily re­la­tions and phys­i­cal de­tails.

Ap­pli­cants will also no longer need to sub­mit a photo of them­selves. Be­cause a civil ser­vice test must be taken, in many cases they also won’t be re­quired to sub­mit their ed­u­ca­tional back­ground. Bloomberg

BLOOMBERG PIC

Many young South Kore­ans, even those with col­lege de­grees, see them­selves as largely ex­cluded from ca­reers, with lit­tle chance of be­ing able to af­ford to get mar­ried and raise chil­dren.

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