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Alternative labor bank fills ‘working mom gap’

Ministry creates temp system to provide maternity cover for public sector workers


Returning from a three-month maternity leave after the birth of her first child, Yun Yeo-jin, 32, is just three weeks back into her job as an official at the public service department of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security.

Unlike her friends working for private companies who felt guilty about offloading their work onto colleagues during maternity leave, Yun didn’t have to feel that way.

The ministry’s newly developed initiative called “alternative human resources bank” helped fill the gap Yun created. The program aims to counter Korea’s low birth rate and support the female workforce by providing immediate substitutes from a pool of alternative human resources for government employees who take maternity or parental leave.

“The best part of this system is that my work burden is not going to my colleagues. I was psychologically and physically relieved,” Yun told The Korea Herald.

Her job involves preparing documents about disciplinary measures for government employees and executing the rulings of the disciplinary committee.

“Since it takes only one or two weeks for the substitute to take over my work, I heard there wasn’t any problem in getting my work done,” she said.

Yun’s experience is uncommon in the Korean corporate world, though.

A 32-year-old female employee, working for one of the nation’s top conglomerates in Seoul, who wanted to be identified only by her surname Kim, said she has had to bear the burden of her senior’s work for the past five months since her senior took extended leave ― two weeks of sick leave before childbirth, three months of maternity leave and another month of paid leave given only to employees who have worked for the company for more than a decade.

“I was really frustrated covering all her work for that long,” Kim said.

The public sector is in a better situation than the private sector when it comes to maternity or parental leave, as welfare policies are more strictly enforced in the government sector.

However, according to some measures, the government sector still has a long way to go.

A 2009 survey, conducted by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, found that 83 percent of employees working in central government were “negative” about taking maternity or parental leave due to concerns about work overload on coworkers.

Where a female government employee took parental leave, 62 percent of respondents said coworkers had to double their work load and 33 percent said a substitute was hired.

Asked why it was difficult to take parental leave, 35 percent of female government employees said they were worried about others’ work overload due to their absence and 28 percent pointed to not being paid enough to support their family. Another 18 percent said they were worried about readjusting to work after returning from leave and 13 percent were concerned about their career prospects.

To help female workers take maternity or parental leave without any guilt, the ministry mapped out a plan to prepare alternative human resources in April 2010 and signed a memorandum of understanding the following month with major government agencies such as the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Seoul Metropolitan Government to participate in the initiative.

According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Safety, a total of 6,641 government employees took maternity or parental leave in 2009, while the ministry has hired a total of 488 alternative employees since introduction of the program.

Of the 488, 200 were hired to support general administrative works and 288 were assigned to professional work duties.

Ryu Han-na, 28, is working as a temporary contract government employee at the National Archives of Korea’s information service bureau for seven months from Dec. 6, 2010 to July 4.

Ryu said she is paid hourly wages and is not allowed to work more than 40 hours a week, which limits her monthly pay to around 1 million won to 1.5 million won.

She applied for the job through the “Nara Ilteo” (public service job market) website and her work involves dealing with general complaints and offering free legal advice.

“Before I began working, I had thought I could feel a little ‘excluded’ because I would be the substitute,” Ryu said.

“But once I joined them, they were very nice to me and they even celebrated my birthday,” she said, adding that she sometimes works extra hours in the evenings as well.

Ryu said she considered her temporary job as a great fill-in, before she takes a government exam in July which she declined to identify.

Sohn Min-joong, a job market analyst at the Samsung Economic Research Institute, said the government’s attempt at establishing an alternative labor force is worth a try.

“Since it is in its budding stage, the government program seems to be part of their efforts to increase overall female employment in Korea and make the labor market more flexible,” Sohn said.

However, he said there should be more details about how the government will meet seasonally-changing work demands. For example, female police tend to delay maternity leave until after promotion tests because taking maternity leave after promotion will be more beneficial to them, he said.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)


<한글 기사> 

대체인력뱅크 제도가 ‘워킹맘’의 부재를 메워준다.

정부가 출산휴가 및 육아휴직을 활성화하고자 휴직자의 업무를 즉시 대행할 수 있는 인력을 마련하는 ‘대체인력뱅크’ 제도가 실제 워킹맘들의 부담을 덜어주고 있다고 나타났다.  

행정안전부에 근무중인 윤여진씨는 첫째 아이 출산 후 직장 복귀한지 약 3주가 되어가고 있다. 여타 사기업과는 달리 윤씨는 출산휴가를 떠날 때 동료들에게 업무부담을 주는 것에 대해 부담을 느끼지 않았다고 한다.

그 이유는 행안부가 최근 마련한 ‘대체인력뱅크’ 때문인데 이 제도는 휴직자의 업무를 대행할 인력을 제공하고 있다. 

하지만 윤씨의 경우는 한국사회 대부분의 직장에서는 보기 드문 일이다.
한 대기업에 근무하는 김씨는 출산, 육아휴직을 떠난 선배의 일을 떠맡고 있다며, 불만을 표시했다. 

출산휴가 및 육아휴직에 있어서 공공부문은 정부 정책이 엄격히 시행되고 있어 민간부분보다는 더 나은 상황에 있다. 

그러나 몇 가지 조사에 따르면 공공부문도 여전히 갈 길이 먼 것으로 나타나고 있다.

행안부의 2009년 조사에 따르면 83 퍼센트의 직원들이 동료들에게 업무부담이 우려되어 출산휴가 및 육아휴직 내기를 꺼려하고 있다고 한다. 

육아휴직 내기가 왜 어려우냐는 대답으로 35 퍼센트의 여성 공무원들은 동료들에게 업무부담이 가중될 우려 때문이라고 답했고, 28 퍼센트는 경제적인 어려움이 예상되기 때문이라고 대답했다. 

행정안전부는 여성 공무원들의 출산을 장려하고 가정친화적인 공직문화를 조성하기 위해 이 같은 내용을 담은 인사관리 개선방안을 마련했다고 1월 12일 밝혔다. 개선안에 따르면 여성 공무원이 출산휴가(90일)를 육아휴직(3년 이내)과 연계해 6개월 이상 사용할 경우, 임용권자는 이 공무원이 출산휴가를 떠날 때부터 결원을 보충할 수 있다. 그동안 출산휴가 시에는 결원 보충을 할 수 없어 동료의 업무부담이 가중됐으나 이 제도가 도입되면 당사자가 부담 없이 휴가를 이용할 수 있을 것으로 행안부는 전망했다. 

또 육아휴직 사전예고제를 도입해 육아휴직에 들어가는 공무원은 예정일 1개월 전까지 임용권자에게 휴직 시기와 기간 등을 알리고 임용권자는 신속하게 인력을 충원하도록 했다. 동료 직원을 대체인력으로 활용하는 경우 그 대상자를 명확히 지정해 업무의 책임성과 연속성을 높이고, ‘대체인력뱅크(6개월 이상 휴직 때 대체가능한 민간인 인력의 데이터베이스)’ 이용을 활성화하기로 했다. 

이와함께 임신 16주 이전의 유산ㆍ사산자에게도 7~14일의 휴가를 부여하는 한편 질병휴직 사유에 불임치료를 명시적으로 규정하고, 입양 휴가를 14일에서 20일로 늘리기로 했다. 이밖에 가정의 날을 운영하고 재택근무를 활성화하는 한편 자치단체의 직장교육 시 ‘성(性) 인지’ 교육을 포함하고 공공청사에는 보육시설과 수유실을 확대하기로 했다. 행안부 관계자는 “관련법령 개정 등을 거쳐 연내에 개선책을 순차적으로 도입할 방침”이라고 말했다.
 
(헤럴드 경제)
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