Becoming a ‘place to stay’ before becoming a ‘place to stay’

▲ Jiyoon Kang, Chairman of Gyeongnam Youth Union

One of the things politicians of local governments who are suffering from youth outflow and population outflow often say is, “We will create an area where young people want to stay.” Gyeongsangnam-do, where I live, is also implementing various policies under the slogan ‘Gyeongnam where young people stay and visit’ as one of the main slogans. But is the place we live in really turning into a place where we want to stay? Or is it at least a place where we can ‘stay’, a place where we can continue our lives?

On the 24th, I participated in a discussion about the actual situation of female workers born in the 1990s. The subtitle of the discussion was ‘Corona Survival Period for Women in Their 20s and 30s’. The work and life of women in their 20s and 30s were at risk to the extent that they used the expression ‘survival’ in Korea, which is an advanced country. I was double exposed to the difficulties I faced as a transitional young man trying to enter society for the first time and the threats I faced while living as a woman.

As expected through statistics, the reality was covered with low wages, an unstable employment environment, a vertical organizational culture, and widespread gender discrimination. Moreover, one of the most important considerations when looking for a job was to comply with the Labor Standards Act, such as leaving work on time and annual leave. The Labor Standards Act, which must be followed at workplaces employing workers, was not being followed in the workplace to such an extent that compliance with it was considered a priority.

Some say that attracting large corporations’ factories to Gyeongnam can create jobs naturally, so the youth job problem can be alleviated. Gyeongsangnam-do also announced that it will create high-quality jobs based on the recovery of key industries such as heavy industry as a job action plan this year, and create jobs that young people want through structural innovation. Aside from the validity of this statement, even if it does, how many positions will be allocated to young women? In Changwon, manufacturing workplaces with 300 or more employees, women account for only 5.6%, and women account for 0% of managerial positions. Even if you do not need to explain the surprising number of 0%, it is a fact that any young woman who has worked or has worked here is desperately feeling it.

Even if they find another job, they are overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the job market that favors men. It is almost impossible to plan long-term prospects while working with a sense of accomplishment in a hierarchical and vertical organizational culture in a hard-to-enter workplace. They are also asked to perform sexist roles, experience hostile attitudes toward women during marriage and childbirth, and naturally avoid marriage. On the one hand, they are branded as selfish beings who do not marry and refuse to fulfill their social roles, fighting social prejudice and sometimes creating friction with their families.

Today’s young female workers are required to perform discriminatory gender roles outside the workplace and are treated as beings against the existing order. The process of entering the workplace and, after entering the workplace, exposed to poor and unstable conditions, the maintenance of life itself is a ‘problem of survival’ that can only be dealt with alone.

Even now, there are many places in the region to gather opinions and find alternatives on how to prevent the outflow of young people, how to solve the discrimination experienced by women workers, and how to solve the youth job problem. When I get a chance to go to such a place, I always say, “We should not try to make something new, but find a way to fix the things we already have.” Making current jobs at least abide by the law, and correcting sexist practices and hierarchical culture in the workplace. Only then, wouldn’t it be perceived as a place of life where we can ‘stay’, even if it is not an attractive area to stay?

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