SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, April 12, 2018 – The Seoul Metropolitan Government gets to improve poor working conditions for freelancers in various fields including writers and programmers. The city government conducted the country’s first survey on the working conditions of 1,000 freelancers and released the results. The Seoul city government said that it will come up with a comprehensive measure to break away from unfair practice in freelancing market and build up a social safety net.
The city government held a debate session on the 11th (Wed) along with the release of survey results. Freelancers from different fields shared their stories and concerns as a freelancer. The meeting was to seek for policies to improve the freelancers’ rights.
The Seoul city government carried out a survey on 1,000 freelancers regarding their working and payment conditions starting from this February until April. According to the survey, many of the respondents have difficulties such as insufficient amount of work and low pay. Unfair business practices are frequently found such as one-sided cancellation of contract and back pay.
The monthly income of freelancers amounts to 1,529,000 won, which is below the living wage (1,760,000 won) and monthly average of minimum wage (1,570,000 won) in 2018. This shows that freelancers do not have high incomes contrary to public awareness. 14.1% of the respondents said that their monthly average income is less than “500,000 won” while 5.8% said that they earn “more than 4 million won” a month. As such, there is a huge income gap between high-paid and low-paid freelancers.
The largest percentage (24.4%) of the respondents said that “industry practice” determines the wage rates. It turns out that the minimum wage, which is the base rate for general workers, has almost no impact on freelancers’ pay. It shows the urgent need of countermeasures such as the standard rates.
44.2% of the respondents said that they do not sign a contract with their clients. Most of the freelancers are found to experience unilateral cancellation of contract, delayed payment and back pay.
60.9% of the respondents said they did “not get a prior notice” in case of contract cancellation. 23.9% said they experienced delayed payment and back salary. The average amount of back pay amounts to 2.6 million won. Regarding how to handle the one-sided contract cancellation and back pay, most of the respondents (93.4% and 84.5%, respectively) said “they had no choice but to bear it.” It shows the urgent need of policy measures.
More than half (54.6%) of the freelancers are found to have difficulties in finding jobs in a regular and constant manner. The highest percentage (66.7%) of the respondents who even do have a regular and constant work flow receive the job from a single client only. It’s found that the freelancers with less experience tend to get less amount of work.
Regarding what motivated them to start a freelancing career, the biggest percentage (22.3%) of the respondents chose “personal reasons such as study,” followed by “to seek more freedom in life instead of staying with a company” (21.3%), “as the most of jobs in their field are freelancing position” (12.6%), and “to get a temporal work while seeking a full-time position” (12.2%).
In regards to what types of policies for freelancers they need, the respondents gave the highest scores for “providing law/tax-related consultation and support for damage compensation” (3.43 out of 5 points), followed by “tighter monitoring on unfair treatment and human rights violations” (3.42 points).
Based on the survey results and cases/issues discussed at the debate, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will put them all together to come up with supportive measures for freelancers. The Seoul city government will also have active discussion with the central government and relevant departments to prepare legislative and institutional measures.