For university students, part-time job is a way to earn money and experience society in advance. According to a research by rankey.com, which provides analysis of various web sites through visitor analysis, about 47 percent of Web users in their 20s visit Albamon.com, a local part-time job listing site.
The statistics is yet another sign of a growing demand for part-time jobs among local college students trying to pay for their tuitions, or to pay for a backpacking trip to overseas. But for those clerking at a convenient store, delivering pizza, or serving at restaurants, there may be some unexpected yet critical hazards−they may not get paid even a minimum wage while being forced to work excruciatingly long hours under a dire working condition.
The minimum wage law was first established in 1986 to help protect workers’ right to receive proper work compensation. As a result, the minimum wage as of 2008 amounts to 3,770 won per hour. But the minimum wage, guaranteed to all types of workers in theory, may still be an elusive luxury for young workers, many students said.
“Last summer, I got paid 3,200 won per an hour at Baskin Robbins store even though the minimum wage was 3,480 at that time. But I couldn’t insist the employer increase may wage, because I was afraid of losing my job,” said a Ewha student majoring in Nursing Science who wishes to remain anonymous.
A story like this is hardly an isolated case. Another Web posting at an anonymous bulletin boards at Ewhaian, a website for Ewha students, lamented she got paid 3,300 won per hour while clerking at a convenient store last summer, far below the minimum wage of 3,480 won.
Minimum wage law violation sometimes takes place in public on the part-time job web sites where there are plenty of part-time job listings. There were 40 jobs available that offered payment below the minimum wage, according to nine part-time job listing websites−Albamon (jobkorea), Albachunguk, Albanuri, Albawiz, Career, Scout, Jobis, Incruit, and Worknet. Among these Web sites, Albawiz had 21 job postings with salaries below the minimum wage, while Career, Scout, and Jobis had 12, four and four such jobs, respectively.
Employers who give workers below minimum wage are somewhat unconcerned of the problem. The owner of Family Mart, a convenient store in front of Ewha, said he paid his clerks 3,550 won, also below the minimum wage, because “they have not much to do while working behind the counter.”
But a meager pay far below the legal limit is not the only problem faced by many young part timers here. They, while getting a meager pay, are asked to work long hours under poor working conditions. Ms. Lee, a Ewha graduate who wishes to remain anonymous, said she was abused by Obzee, one of the most well-known clothing companies in Korea, while she worked for them from July to October last year. “I was supposed to work for eight hours, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., excluding one hour of lunch. However, I always worked over eight hours because my boss at the office wanted employees to work over-time.” She said she worked until 11 p.m. or 12 p.m., and even until 3 or 5 a.m. “I couldn’t even eat lunch for an hour while resting. I was always in hurry and ate lunch only for 15 minutes. I even missed my college graduating ceremony,” Lee said.
But no matter how much the young workers are abused at the workplace, there is a slim chance for the young, inexperienced students to even make a small voice of complaint. And Lee was no exception, since she even harbored a hope to get a full-time job at Obzee someday.
Since student workers usually do not have any power to complain to the employers, there may well are not many people who present petition to the Ministry of Labor, according to an official of Seoul Regional Ministry. “Workers usually present petition for the overdue wages. But, when we go to the workplace to check, sometimes we find the employer was also violating the minimum wage law as well as not paying their workers. In that case, we demand the employer give the worker beyond the minimum wage. Other than that, workers rarely present petition for only minimum wages,” she said. She added that they usually give a warning to the employer at first when they find that they violated the minimum wage law. “Since we usually focus on the improvement of the situation, rather than punishment of employers, we require the employers to change their level of wage and visit the workplace again to see if they changed it or not.”