Young people stuck with “passion wages” and little opportunity to learn

Posted on : 2015-06-25 18:35 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Study finds that interns and trainees are often paid little or nothing so that organizations can increase their profits

“They paid me 10,000 won a day (US$9) as an industrial trainee, but instead of giving me any actual training, they just had me do odd jobs for 12 hours. I was a trainee in name, but I might as well have been a convenience store clerk.”

The 24-year-old woman, who had worked as an on-site trainee in the service industry, related her experience with vehemence in her voice.

According to a recent study, about half of young people in South Korea have been received “passion wages” - referring to the practice of using people’s passion for their work as an excuse for paying them little. Seven out of 10 of them received less than the minimum wage or worked for free, the study showed.

On June 24, the Presidential Committee on the Young Generation released a study called Current Status of Passion Wages for Young People, which surveyed 5,219 young people between the ages of 19 and 34 who have done an internship or had on-site training. The study found that 53.6% of respondents (2,799) had received passion wages.

Of the 2,127 respondents who had received passion wages and also answered follow-up questions, 57.5% (1,123) said that they had done the same kind of work as regular employees to increase the profits of the organization employing them.

29.6% of young people had worked more than 13 hours a day on average, 21.3% from 11 to 12 hours a day, and 26.2% from 9 to 10 hours a day. Only 22.9% had worked 8 hours or less a day.

Only 25.2% received the minimum wage or more for their work. The rest of them were paid less than the minimum wage (42.6%) or nothing at all (32.2%).

One male university student who had worked part-time in the area of performance art said that he had sometimes not been paid.

“I get by doing part-time work at a performance space and making 60,000 won (US$54) each time. I like what I do, but it’s really tough when I don’t get paid for it,” he said.

37.4% of respondents who had been paid passion wages said that they had been unfairly discriminated against because of their status as interns and trainees. Respondents said that the hardest parts about their experience with passion wages were the low pay (27.0%) and the sense that they were wasting time without learning anything (18.7%).

Nevertheless, only 22.5% of young people said that people in this position should quit (16.0%) or take the proactive step of making a complaint (6.5%). While respondents recognized that passion wages are unfair, most said it was just part of their career (41.1%) or thought that nothing could be done about it (11.3%).

On Wednesday, the Presidential Committee published a the “Win-Win Pay Brochure,” which provides information about counseling centers for unfair employment and a checklist of rights for young workers so that young people can receive fair pay from their employers.


By Yoon Young-mi, senior staff writer


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