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South Korea passes law to protect delivery workers

South Korean delivery workers have been struggling to keep up with demand for their services amid the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI
South Korean delivery workers have been struggling to keep up with demand for their services amid the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- South Korean delivery and gig economy workers could receive greater protection after an amended law guaranteed unemployment benefits and accident coverage, but that does not go into effect until 2021.

South Korea's National Assembly on Wednesday voted for amendments to the country's Employment Insurance Act, Occupational or Industrial Accident Insurance Act and a third law that affects employee benefits, News 1 reported.

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The revision to the Employment Insurance Act passed with 239 out of 253 lawmakers favoring the motion, and the amendment to the occupational accident insurance law passed with 236 votes in favor.

The new bill was approved after a string of deaths of delivery workers in South Korea. In October, a delivery driver in South Gyeongsang Province left behind a note detailing unfair contract terms, according to KBS at the time.

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Demand for delivery services has soared amid the coronavirus pandemic, and at least 11 delivery workers were found dead this year.

In October, President Moon Jae-in raised concerns about essential workers.

"COVID-19 is increasingly pushing the livelihoods of workers within economic blind spots, including those of special-employment type workers, towards the brink," Moon said.

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The amendments that passed Wednesday include benefits for contractors that are equivalent to paid maternity leave. The revisions also give more rights for gig workers to request documentation from employers to apply for various insurance benefits.

Workers still can apply to be exempt from being covered under the occupational accident insurance law, but the exemption clause may previously have allowed employers to exploit loopholes.

Delivery workers who died this year reportedly were "forced" to apply for exemptions from insurance benefits, according to News 1.

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The pro-business Federation of Korean Industries criticized the bill Wednesday, claiming the revisions will create new "imbalances" between labor and management according to Hankook Ilbo.

The bill goes into effect on July 1 for logistics workers and Jan. 1, 2022, for gig economy workers who work on digital platforms, reports said.

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