Less than one-third of part-time women workers receive health insurance, and benefits are less than men’sThe Lee Myung-bak administration announced its “purple-job” policy to help working men and women handle both their careers and household duties through the Ministry of Gender Equality last December.
“Purple job is a working policy that allows employees to choose working time flexibly,” said Lee Jung-hyun, deputy director of the ministry.
In the term “purple job,” red and blue symbolize household chores and careers, respectively, and purple signifies a mixture of the two.
Officials said the system would allow employees to use flextime — a system which employees can choose when they work, subject to achieving total daily — especially for working moms since women have inferiority in managing both work and household chores.
“Due to the burden of giving birth and nurturing a child, most Korean women in their 30s tend to drop their careers, which accounts for the M-curve,” said Lee.
The M-curve refers to the phenomena of the women population dropping out from the labor market due to reasons such as child care.
According to the statistics provided by the Ministry for Gender Equality, only two percent of male employees took childcare leave since 2001, which was the main reason the Lee administration established the purple job policy. Under the policy, more men would be able to participate in household chores, making it easier for women to work.
However, some question the policy’s practicality.
“The purple job system is a rather short-term or superficial solution for women,” said Professor Lee Joo-hee (Sociology). “It does not address the current problems of the female labor market, such as insufficient wages and the concentration of part-time jobs.”
Statistics show that women work more in part-time and low-income jobs than men.
According to research from the Korea Labor Institute in 2006, less than one-third of women part-time workers receive health insurance, and benefits are less than men’s.
“The ministry announced the purple job policy to help women continue their careers, but the problem is that the career path made possible through the purple job policy could aggravate the situation by setting limits in job selection,” said Professor Lee.“Moreover, the right of employees to choose their working time has long been protected in other countries. In this perspective, flextime is not a special solution for women but an essential need for every laborer.”
In contrast, the government defends the purple job policy as a type of social safety net for women workers.
The Ministry for Gender Equality also says that purple job policies in other countries support launching a similar policy here.
“Citibank employed housewives as permanent part timers and distributed them during peak times. It was a great success. Like the Citibank case, we hope that flextime working helps women to continue their careers in different kinds of jobs, besides just simple ones,” said Lee Jung-hyun.
Lee says a more comprehensive approach is needed.
“The main reason behind women quitting their jobs is the hardship they have to face when both working and nurturing,” said Professor Lee. “More funding should be allotted instead to developing quality childcare facilities.”
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