UPDATE : 2018.1.22 MON 09:19
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Retailers plan more hirings as gov't emphasizes job creation

Leading retailers are planning more hirings this year in step with the new government's emphasis on jobs and employment stability, industry watchers said Wednesday.

Lotte Group, which owns a chain of department stores and supermarkets, hired 13,300 new employees last year. It said it will try to maintain that level this year as well, despite the heavy financial damage from boycotts in China, one of the conglomerate's largest overseas consumer markets. Lotte also plans to switch some 10,000 irregular positions to permanent ones over the next three years.

Shinsegae Group, Lotte's rival, said it will rehire the best-performing store managers as full-time employees and give them corresponding benefits.

Hyundai Department Store Group is expected to increase its hirings this year to 2,600, about 100 more than last year. Homeplus, a discount chain, said it will shift its part-time workers to full-time employees by March 2019.

The retail industry is a frequently cited example of an unbalanced jobs sector, where irregular workers far outnumber permanent manpower.

One of the key policy focuses of the Moon Jae-in administration, which took office May 10, is to create "quality jobs" that are stable rather than temporary positions where workers have to worry about being laid off.

In his visit to Incheon International Airport Corp., a public enterprise, soon after taking office, Moon pledged "an era of zero irregular jobs" in the public sector during his five-year term.

The proportion of temporary workers in the retail industry is not high. At Lotte Department Store branches, for example, irregular workers count for 5.6 percent of its workforce. But it has more than 10,000 people, about twice as many as its permanent workers, who are hired through a third party. The majority of them are placed in parking, sanitation, maintenance and security jobs.

Hyundai Department Store has about 2,000 employees on indefinite contracts and 4,000 hired on temporary contracts. At E-mart, supermarkets run by Shinsegae, 1,616 workers out of 27,973 workers are on indefinite contracts.

Some 10 percent of the workers at Homeplus are irregular workers.

Industry watchers are concerned that the retailers are making hiring plans when business conditions could get worse due to government restrictions, such as more mandatory days of closure and higher minimum pay. New store openings could be delayed by required pre-agreements with smaller neighborhood stores, which suffer the most when big retailers open in their vicinity.

"Demand is growing for us to create more regular positions as business conditions are becoming harsher," an industry official said. "Companies will make their own efforts, but we hope that rather than stronger regulations, we will have an environment where we can engage in businesses that can create employment." (Yonhap)

Lee Sung-won  edt@koreapost.com

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