“We’re not hiring.” I lost my part-time job to a $20,000 machine.
My longest job was at a gas station, where I refueled up to eight cars by myself.” (Actor Kim Young-kwang)
“I worked part-time at a gas station from 11 p.m. to dawn and lived fiercely.” (Comedian Park Joon-hyung)
Working part-time at a gas station was once a symbol of hard work and youth. It was also loved by the elderly as a way to make ends meet. But now, it’s becoming an unfamiliar sight. Even gas station jobs are a dime a dozen. Instead, self-service gas stations are all the rage.
Owners argue that it’s a natural progression. They argue that the minimum wage hike has increased labor costs, and replacement costs are cheaper.
Raising the minimum wage used to be about employee benefits, but that’s changing. Robots, kiosks, self-service, and other labor substitutes have become more available and cheaper. Business owners are turning to self-service and robots instead of paying for labor. Robots and humans compete for jobs, and part-time jobs are at the forefront.
On the 25th, the national branch presidents of the Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises held a press conference to call for a minimum wage freeze in 2024 in front of the Ministry of Employment and Labor building in Sejong. “As of the fourth quarter of last year, the balance of loans to self-employed people reached 1020 trillion won,” said Oh Se-hee, chairwoman, “and if the minimum wage is raised, small businesses will no longer be able to survive.”
Gas station part-time jobs are a case in point. According to the Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, self-service gas stations accounted for only 18.9 percent of gas stations nationwide in 2016. By April of this year, that number had soared to 48.9 percent. This means that one out of every two gas stations in the country is already a self-service gas station.
During the same period, the minimum wage rose from 6030 won to 9620 won. According to the Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, “the increase in self-service gas stations is mainly due to the burden of labor costs.”
Actual gas station owners are in the same boat. An official from a gas station in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, who recently switched to self-service, said, “I had been putting it off because of the replacement cost, but considering the labor cost of three employees, I thought it would be better to take out a loan and replace it.”
The replacement cost is approximately 20 million won per vehicle. Based on the current minimum wage, the monthly salary per employee is about 2 million won. Add to that severance pay, insurance costs, and the cost of replacing vacation workers. The cost of one employee for one year is approximately the cost of one replacement.
[Source: VD Company YouTube caption]안전놀이터.
The same goes for restaurant jobs. Mr. A (35), a resident of Mapo-gu, Seoul, recently asked for a part-time job at a restaurant and was told, “Can you work weekends and nights for a monthly salary of 600,000 won?” He said, “I am a regular restaurant owner, but I was bitter about the words, ‘I am tired of people and will use a serving robot now.'”
In fact, serving robots have recently made their way into neighborhood kimbap heaven. As serving robot technology has evolved significantly and become more affordable, the number of companies using them has increased significantly. Businesses are renting robots for as little as $600,000 per month.
‘Table ordering’, where customers order directly from their tablets, is also popular. This prevents so-called ‘fraud’ and eliminates the need for staff to take orders.
Butler robots that do household chores, robots that fry chicken, and robots that cook bear soup or steak. These are the robots that are serving in restaurants in real life, not at fairs. Beyond the development and production stage, most of them are now available for rental. They usually cost between 1 million and 2 million won per month. No more than the cost of one person’s labor.
“As companies favor the adoption of robots, inequality between people could widen, and the post-pandemic period could see a ‘jobless recovery,'” the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report.