Listening policy debate on improving working conditions for social welfare workers
Date: April 9, 2013
Venue: Multipurpose Hall, Seoul City Hall
I am very glad to meet all of our staff responsible for social welfare in this city, and I particularly enjoy this kind of open, relaxed discussion. Though many of you did not speak out much early on in the meeting, now your opinions and suggestions are pouring out like a river, indicating to me that your struggles and pain have been building up for quite some time.
One day, President Mok Young-ja asked me to prepare this kind of meeting, and I have kept my promise. Listening to your stories today truly broke my heart. You are at the forefront of defending the welfare, quality of life, and happiness of all Seoul citizens, but I wonder how you can progress in this regard under such difficult circumstances. So, today’s meeting is quite meaningful as it prompts us to think about and create a list of tasks that need to be carried out. In our presence here today are the director of the Health and Welfare Bureau, the president of the Seoul Welfare Foundation, and the president of the Seoul Council on Social Welfare. They have carefully listened to everything you have said and will prepare solutions to address all of your concerns.
Addressing your concerns is the responsibility of the central government and the heads of the gu (district) offices, and as the mayor of Seoul, I am also responsible. The central government delegates various social welfare tasks to you via the Social Welfare Integrated Management Network, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government is tasked with responding rationally to those requests and requesting the central government to make necessary changes, but our response has been insufficient.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has made several changes in the personnel management system, allowing some neglected staff members in technology positions to be promoted to the positions of deputy director or division head. In particular, a staff member responsible for cadastral affairs was recently promoted to division head. However, I now find that due consideration has not been given to staff members in social welfare positions, so I will send guidelines to the heads of the gu offices in order to have this issue dealt with as well. Above all, the main difficulty of social welfare jobs, I think, is the sheer volume of work assigned to individual staff members, which often exceeds their basic job descriptions.
As we move toward becoming a welfare society, and so-called universal welfare is expanding, the number of welfare-related tasks has skyrocketed, but we have an insufficient number of staff members to execute these tasks. This issue extends to the Seoul Metropolitan Government and central government as well. I expect that this problem will grow, and with the recent suicide of a social welfare worker, it is time that we review and make changes to the way we work. You have said that the workloads you are dealing with could lead to more suicides; I do not consider such a death a suicide but rather a homicide. This expresses how seriously I view this issue and the necessity of Seoul City taking steps to address it.
First, the overall job description for social welfare workers should be clearly established. As the volume of welfare-related work has increased over the last two decades, per capita workload and how it varies by district should be measured. Per capita workload for the same social welfare position can also vary by gu and dong administrative area. Therefore, we need to carry out a comprehensive analysis of what we are currently doing and how we are doing it. After such an analysis is completed, we may then devise staffing methods commensurate with each job description, and we will forward our suggestions to the central government and send guidelines to the gu offices.
Second, we may need to take measures to boost morale, such as launching promotions and improving working conditions.
Third, we have recently been hearing the term “emotional labor”. As the purpose of social welfare jobs is to care for the vulnerable groups in our society, you encounter a wide variety of conflicts and difficulties while carrying out your work. Therefore, I think greater professional education to relieve the resulting stress and enhance job capabilities is required.
Moreover, we may need a healing program to soothe minds and treat wounded hearts. I am currently in the process of establishing an optimal working condition research center under the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and I am also preparing measures to protect subway station workers and firefighters. I believe social welfare staff should be offered a similar healing program as well. ,/p>
Also, I think we need to offer better benefits for the staff. In fact, during the three years I spent working for a non-profit organization, I offered one-month paid leave, three-month paid leave after seven years, and a one-year leave after 10 years of work. And I proposed the same leave system to the director of the Administration Bureau, who said it was not possible according to the guidelines of the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. After that, I wondered why government employees are not getting fair benefits for their hard work. So, I went to the Cabinet Council today to speak about this, and I will speak to the minister of Security and Public Administration as well.
Lastly, regarding the many questions and suggestions that were put forth today, I would like to propose this. Why don’t you open a Facebook page that all social welfare workers can join and where they may communicate freely? I would join as well, to read about your concerns and the difficulties you face on a daily basis. Heads of the gu offices and the minister of Health and Welfare are more than welcome to participate. So, let us begin with a channel of communication initiated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Chairwoman Mok Young-ja, what do you think about my idea?
I appreciate all of your hard work, and we will do our best to listen to and address your concerns one by one. So please, keep your chin up! Thank you.