State in­sti­tutes ill-pre­pared for shorter workweek

The Korea Times - - FINANCE - By Lee Kyung-min [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Con­cerns are grow­ing over whether state-run think tanks are ready to adopt a shorter workweek as they are re­quired by law to re­duce their max­i­mum work­ing hours from 68 to 52, be­gin­ning Oct. 1.

Most of them have yet to fi­nal­ize how to re­or­ga­nize their work­force, with lin­ger­ing con­cerns that the work­ing hours re­duc­tion could un­der­mine the com­pet­i­tive­ness of re­search-in­ten­sive bod­ies that should pri­or­i­tize prompt, task-driven gov­ern­ment pol­icy re­views, an op­po­si­tion law­maker said Sun­day.

Ac­cord­ing to data sub­mit­ted to Rep. Sung Il-jong of the main op­po­si­tion Lib­erty Korea Party, among 26 state-run think tanks su­per­vised by the Na­tional Re­search Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ics, Hu­man­i­ties and So­cial Sciences (NRC), only three have reached an agree­ment on a new workweek.

They are the Korea In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Korean In­sti­tute of Crim­i­nol­ogy and Korea De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute School of Pub­lic Pol­icy and Man­age­ment.

Dis­cus­sion is on­go­ing be­tween man­age­ment and unions at the re­main­ing 23 or­ga­ni­za­tions over whether to im­ple­ment “flex­i­ble” work­ing hours, a move to give work­ers more dis­cre­tion on when to come to or leave work.

All of them have yet to re­vise their work con­tracts, leav­ing any man­age­ment-union agree­ment elu­sive.

No con­sen­sus has been reached on whether to al­low work­ers to take hol­i­days for ex­tra week­day work, and whether com­ing to work for five full days from Mon­day through Fri­day should be scrapped as long as they work a 52 hour per week.

Rep. Sung crit­i­cized the manda­tory im­ple­men­ta­tion of one of the sig­na­ture eco­nomic poli­cies of the Moon Jae-in ad­min­is­tra­tion, cit­ing a lack of flex­i­bil­ity.

“The 52-hour workweek was in­tro­duced to help re­duce work­ing hours, thereby help­ing cre­ate more new jobs. But given the sta­tus quo, the law tak­ing ef­fect will not help the pol­icy achieve its goal, not to men­tion the ef­fi­cacy of state think tanks be­ing un­der­mined, with tax­pay­ers’ money squan­dered in the process,” Sung said.

Yun Chang-hyun, an econ­o­mist at the Univer­sity of Seoul said ask­ing peo­ple to blindly fol­low a law with ob­vi­ous draw­backs was not how a gov­ern­ment should be run.

“It makes no sense,” Yun said. “Re­search in­sti­tutes are not man­u­fac­tur­ers. Their work can­not be quan­ti­fied as eas­ily as man­u­fac­tur­ers that have no choice but to halt pro­duc­tion once ma­chines are turned off.”

Fea­si­bil­ity re­views, con­sult­ing work and stud­ies con­cern­ing pressing gov­ern­ment pol­icy is­sues should be car­ried out in a man­ner that is fast, ac­cu­rate and com­pre­hen­sive, which is more qual­i­ta­tive work not quan­ti­ta­tive, Yun added.

“Dif­fer­ent rules are needed for dif­fer­ent sec­tors. It is a shame that the gov­ern­ment does not see that,” he said.

The NRC is ex­pected to make rec­om­men­da­tions to gov­ern­ment min­istries on ways to help im­prove the new pol­icy im­ple­men­ta­tion fol­low­ing the find­ings of an in­de­pen­dent study com­mis­sioned by the Korea La­bor In­sti­tute, in late Septem­ber.

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