(Source: Inside Retail Asia | 7 October 2016)
Korean retail giants Lotte and Shinsegae are competing to improve employment conditions for women.
The two companies are pushing forward with efforts to provide more opportunities for women to move up in their corporate hierarchies and implementing women-friendly systems as part of their company policies. Korean gender employment issues are of growing concern in a traditionally male-dominated business culture.
According to industry watchers, Shinsegae’s discount store franchise E-Mart instituted a shortened work-hour system for all of its pregnant employees starting in April, with employees eligible regardless of whether they apply for the benefits or not, and offering them 100 per cent of their wages. Under the arrangement, pregnant employees have their work day shortened by two hours.
The system had been difficult for female workers to take advantage of given both the company atmosphere which tended to discourage the practice, as well as reduced wages, said a company official.
In addition, E-Mart announced in March a new leave of absence policy for employees having difficulties with pregnancy, and it also plans to implement its own maternity leave system that allows employees to take up to a year of maternity leave, on top of the legally-guaranteed period of 20 months (eight months for maternity, 12 for childcare). The latter has already been implemented by another Shinsegae franchise, Shinsegae Department Store.
In contrast, Lotte’s women-friendly policies focus more on employing a greater number of women as new recruits.
Since 2006, Lotte has been increasing the number of female employees at its affiliate enterprises by hiring more women through its recruiting process. In 2015, 35 per cent of new recruits were women, a rate that the group plans to increase to 40 per cent this year.
Furthermore, Lotte also operates a special recruiting platform specific to retired female officers from the military, an endeavor which took off in 2011 with cooperation from the defense ministry.
As a result, the number of women at Lotte with positions as section chiefs or higher now stands at 870, an increase from 95 in 2008, and 19 of the group’s board members are also female.
Meanwhile, Lotte established eight additional daycare centers for its employees in the first half of 2016 for working mothers, while allowing women to automatically take their year-long childcare leave right after their maternity leave, so they won’t have to face unnecessary guilt or unwelcome comments from colleagues or bosses.
“Chairman Shin Dong-bin seems to be taking extra attention to nurture female employees and their talent,” said a Lotte official. “Our goal is to create a work environment where women can work without facing gender discrimination.”
Original reporting by Kevin Lee of Korea Bizwire.