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The Peninsula

Overworked and Underpaid Delivery Service Workers

Published October 1, 2020
Author: Korea View
Category: Current Events

What Happened

  • Over 4,000 delivery workers nationwide threatened to stop sorting parcels as a protest against heavy workloads ahead of the Chuseok holiday.
  • These workers backtracked from the boycott after the Labor Minister pledged to increase manpower and improve working conditions.
  • This year alone, seven parcel delivery workers died from overwork, as the coronavirus outbreak led to a sharp surge in the parcel delivery demand.

Implications: South Korean workers most exposed to the economic hardships in the pandemic economy enjoy the least amount of protection as the Moon administration’s progressive labor policies privilege full-time employees. The struggles of many delivery workers highlight the government’s lack of attention on issues of excessive work hours and unfair wages affecting part-time and gig workers. For instance, the recently introduced 52-hour workweek ceiling does not apply to these delivery workers. This reality persists despite President Moon Jae-in recognizing that delivery workers play a leading role in overcoming COVID-19.

Context: According to a report by the Korea Transport Institute, delivery workers are often on the job for more than 70 hours a week, sometimes without any breaks or time to eat a meal. Moreover, members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions claim that there has been a lack of preventative measures to safeguard the health of delivery service workers since the onset of the coronavirus. In fact, during the past few months, the Korean government appears to have been more focused on keeping the national economy intact by boosting the interests of both major corporations as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sophie Joo, Sonia Kim, and Chris Lee. Picture from Wikimedia Commons account of Roadgo

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