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PSPD  l  People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

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  • 2003.11.08
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Youngsters and Their Rights:

PSPD’s Youth Club ‘WA’ is Getting into the “Campaign for Part-Timers’ Rights”.

Part-time youth workers are speaking up for their rights. Young people who are doing Arbeit (part-time job, popularly called Alba) are speaking out against discrimination and unfair treatment.

Go Alba!

The youth volunteer club of PSPD, ‘Dynamic Youth WA’ (WA) has chosen the issue ofyoung part-time workers and their problemsas a basis for action. The main focus of the campaign is centered around building confidence among often underpaid young workers, many of whom earn less than the minimum wage (2,100 Korean Won per hour), or are not paid at all, simply because of their age.

‘WA’ and the Social Welfare Committee of PSPD held a press conference to announce the beginning of the campaign for the right of young part-time workers. ‘Go Alba and Speak Out Loud’ is name of the campaign.

Byungduk Kwon , a sophomore at Hansin University joined WA as a high school student. He explained the background of the campaign announcement: “We see this as a human rights issue. The first step towards a solution to this problem is getting teenagers to recognize that they have rights. Then they can move to action.”

Young Part-Time Workers and Problems with the Labor Standard Acts

PSPD and WA recently released the results of a study it conducted on working conditions among young part-time workers . In a survey of over 1,106 students in middle and high school (academic and technical) located in Seoul and its suburbs, PSPD found that labor laws are often ignored by employers.

45.3% of the interviewees said they had part-time jobs, and 29.2% of kids under 15 (who are officially not allowed to work) said they had also. According to the current Labor Standards Act, teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 need special permission from the Ministry of Labor in order to work. However PSPD found out that the only 11 such permits were issued in the previous two years. These facts point to some fundamental flaws in the government’s current enforcement system.

The Labor Standards Act does not allow teenagers to work between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Even so, PSPD’s research shows that 28% of interviewees had worked after 10 pm. How do employers go around the current system? Part of the problem is a simple lack of documentation. 86.7% of teens surveyed in Seoul did not have contracts. As a consequence of this, 32.4% received pay lower than the minimum wage, and 25.4% receive nothing.

Professor Jonghae Kim, who teaches Social Welfare at Catholic University, says, “Our society has double standards. Part-time employment offers teenagers the chance to develop independence.. On the other hand, the social effects of teenage employment are often considered to be negative. This is a subject that must be debated in our society further.”

Problems with minimum wage standards and passivity towards industrial disasters

Workers who are under 18 year old often earn only 90% of the minimum wage. Increasingly, this situation has led to a backlash among teen workers, something that was revealed through research by PSPD and other NGOs in Korea.

Hyejin Moon of PSPD’s Social Welfare committee says, “considering the results [of the PSPD survey] from Seoul and its surrounding area, this is an important issue that is not being addressed. It is important for public institutions to further study the situation and come up with a plan for action.”

Authentic right proof and protection

PSPD insists that the government inspect the working situation of teenager and punish shops breaking the Minimum Wage Act. It is also pushing for a new law which would consolidate existing legislation into a more cohesive act which would also provide stronger protections for youth workers.

WA and PSPD intend to do some concrete projects for these purposes. Through a new web site (www.poweralba.net) they started to collect examples of youth violence related to labor standards and are preparing an online campaign to fight against reduced payment of minimum wages. A festival entitled ‘Go! Power Alba’ are planned for August 3, 6, and 9 in Maronie Park..

WA and PSPD are also arranging talks and meetings with the Ministry of Labor and The Commission on Youth Protection, where they will hand in a petition about revision of youth-related laws and acts.
John Park
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