The proportion of the poor continues to rise while the middle class dwindles. According to Statistics Korea on Sunday, the number of the low-income households with income under 50 percent of the median value was estimated at 3.06 million last year, representing 18.1 percent of the total 16.91 million.
Under OECD standards, the institute defines households with an average monthly income between 50 and 150 percent of the median value of income as middle class, and those with income over 150 percent of the median value as wealthy.
The proportion of low-income households had been rising from 16.7 percent in 2006 to 17.5 percent in 2008. Last year saw a steeper rise in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The monthly income of the low-income households averaged W800,000 last year, with each household earning minimum wages or less (US$1=W1,141).
The income excluded governmental aid or welfare benefits. In population terms, Statistics Korea estimates the number of the poor at 7 million people. The household deficit of the bottom 20 percent of the income bracket stood at a record W408,000 per month last year, over W400,000 for the first time. The figure had hovered around W350,000 since 2003.
Meanwhile, the proportion of the middle class is declining. It was over 60 percent until 2006 but dipped to 59.4 percent in 2007 and has kept falling since.