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Path to Poverty of Sick Workers and Fictional Korean Social Security

Sophia Seung-yoon Lee 1 Ki-tae Kim 2

1이화여자대학교
2숭실대학교

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ABSTRACT

This study analyzes how workers become impoverished and have their jobs less stabilized after they suffer from non-job-related sickness. Given that South Korea lacks sickness benefits, which most of OECD member states legislate and implement except US and Switzerland, this study examines its impact on laborers’ job stability and povertization in Korea. The researchers have conducted in-depth interviews with nine former or present laborers who have the experiences and four experts on the issue in July-September, 2017 for the qualitative analysis. It is found that laborers, after becoming aware of their sickness, at first endure their pain without informing their employers not to lose their jobs. The attititude is observed especially among non-standard laborers, because sickness more often leads to job loss for them than for standard laborers. After workers have to leave their jobs due to their sickness in the end, they have no choice but to keep working in less stable jobs to compensate for income losses. They become gradually impoverished with their social capital like family bond declining. We observe laborers who are eligible for industrial accident insurance compensation could not benefit from the system because some employers refrain from the legal reporting duty. Due to this illegal practices, some industrial accident victims unduly lose their jobs due to “non-job-related sickness”. Second, some employers report to the authority that their sick laborers have left their jobs ‘voluntarily’ even when they have quitted it without their volition, in which case the newly unemployed are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Large holes in Korea’s safety nets for those suffering from multiple risks of sickness and unemployment.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.