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Implications: South Korea’s social safety net remains fragile as only half of the country’s workforce is eligible to receive unemployment insurance. Day laborers are a particularly vulnerable cohort as they are excluded from unemployment benefits but are most heavily exposed to layoffs in the post-COVID economic slump. A deadly warehouse fire also brought attention to the fact that these irregular workers receive less public assistance when they are victims of workplace accidents. In response, the Moon administration has proposed expanding unemployment insurance, alongside other measures.
Context: Advocates have called for the expansion of unemployment insurance since the early 2000s. A revision to the Employment Insurance Act was proposed in 2018, which would cover workers with different types of employment contracts and artists. However, the revision failed to move forward because it faced opposition from the business community. However, economic hardships brought on by COVID-19 are bringing attention to the disproportionate pains that will be felt by irregular workers.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.
Picture from flickr user Arnaud Matar