Job Sharing With Ghosts
The country's top 30 conglomerates have decided to slash wages for this year's new recruits by up to 28 percent. The pay differential is to be used to maintain the level of new employment at that of previous years. State enterprises are also cutting entry-level wages for new hires so as to employ more interns.

These efforts, a form of the much-touted ``job-sharing'' drive, are aimed at minimizing job cuts and keeping more people on payrolls. The irony is that pay cuts are being slapped on employees who are yet to be employed so they have no say about the wages that are being taken away.

So it is understandable that a group of college seniors and graduates staged a protest in front of the building of the Federation of Korean Industries, the lobbyist for big business, in Yeouido last week.
The students, representing 60 universities and colleges, said in a news conference, ``Big companies are forcing us to take pay cuts under the guise of job sharing. What they are actually doing is just passing the burden on to the weakest link ― that is us.''

Under the FKI guideline that was agreed on by big conglomerates, the pay scale for new recruits will go down from the current range of 20 million to 40 million won, to 20 million won to 30 million won. Imagine the wider gap between this year's recruits and employees with one year's experience for the same job. It is not just about annual pay but severance pay where the gap can be many times greater.

Besides, the Korean version of job sharing has its priorities upside down.
In other countries, reducing hours of work is a key to job sharing, but the top priority here is slashing wages. Some may question the companies' motives.

The FKI says that the first-year wages of college-graduated employees for big companies accounted for 127.9 percent of per capita GDP as of 1997, higher than 94.5 percent in the United States, 92.9 percent in the United Kingdom and 72.3 percent in Japan.


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