Minimum hourly wage for 2018 was raised to 7,530 won per hour, a whopping 16.4 percent increase from last year. Ever since, there has been a harsh criticism that it would generate negative side effects. As individual proprietors are prone to hire part-time workers, they are the ones expected to be hit hard by the sharp raise. However, come to think of it, the focus seems to lie solely on the increase. What is out of the picture is a safety measure that government has contrived and now put in action. In order to impartially take a stance on the wage floor increase, there is a need to take government subsidies, namely job funds, into account.
“Job funds” are one of the leading government subsidy funds to ease smaller companies’ burden resulting from dramatic wage floor increases. According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, a company having fewer than 30 members will be eligible for the support of up to 130,000 won per employee. As a matter of fact, anticipating the difficulty the increase will bring was so obvious from the start. Therefore, the government has been preparing for the support beforehand and apart from job funds, it is coming up with subsequent plans. Taking job fund support into consideration, it would be wrong to recklessly blame the minimum wage hike for the individual proprietors’ burden. Furthermore, if the situation for individual proprietors gets worse this year, we should not throw the blame entirely on the increase, but strive to solve its endemic problems. For example, one can point out rental fee rates continuously getting higher. In addition, due to the economy slowdown and the unemployment crisis, many people end up as individual proprietor. Since it is relatively easy to jump into, the independent business market is getting overflowed, leading to intense competition.
According to Statistics Korea, this year’s minimum wage increase was the highest since the legal minimum wage system has been applied. However, prior to the decision, there was a series of negotiation between workers and employers. On top of that, the wage was taken on a vote based on each side’s final proposal on the issue. Still, according to many, the rate of increase may be radical and controversy over the matter persists. In this state, it is easy to give harsh criticism; however excluding acknowledgement of the security measures to alleviate the change should be avoided. Along with this, other factors related to the endemic problems of independent business should not be ignored and should be addressed.
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