SEOUL, May 18 (Korea Bizwire) – Following years of criticism against the poor working conditions suffered by apartment janitors, who sometimes work up to fifteen hours per day, efforts to improve the situation are being reported across the country.
A number of supportive measures at both the city and district level include a subsidy for construction companies that hire older janitors, while another measure requires new apartment building plans to include a bigger janitor’s room than those previously built, in order to secure the well-being and safety of employees.
Yongin is one of the cities that is taking the issue into its own hands.
From this month, advisory measures will be put in place during the approval process of business plans to urge construction companies to expand the size of a janitor’s room to 21.1 square meters from the previous 16.5 square meters.
The lack of personal space has been criticized as one of the major problems facing janitors in the country, as the previously recommended size allows little to no room after accommodating a desk, a bathroom and parcels they are often expected to keep for apartment residents.
In response to criticism over the vulnerable employment status of janitors, which is often compared with the ‘lifecycle of a fly’ as most of them are replaced every three to six months, the Yongin city government is also changing contract rules and making sure employers hire janitors for the same period of time as the security firm they belong to.
Suwon City is also following similar steps as officials have announced plans to pump 2.5 billion won into this year’s apartment housing management subsidy project, which will reward construction companies with up to 50 million won in compensation for building or renovating a rest area for janitors, with four companies already having agreed to participate.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is adding another criterion to their apartment assessment system which will take into consideration the treatment of janitors. As the result of the assessment is made public at the end of each year, Seoul’s initiative is expected to improve the transparency and effectiveness of apartment management.
Amid growing efforts from local governments to ensure the rights of janitors, the South Korean central government is making its own moves.
In March, a reform bill on the apartment housing management law proposed by the Democratic Party’s Yun Gwan-suk was passed during an Assembly plenary session, prohibiting tenant representatives from giving unfair requests or orders to janitors.
In the past, janitors working at some apartments were expected to deliver parcels to the door, causing a fiery debate online.
“As most apartment janitors are elders, we will continue to monitor their working condition and come up with measures to uphold their well-being,” an official at the Ministry of Employment & Labor said.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)