1 in 4 Households Experienced Absolute Poverty

      January 31, 2012 11:06

      One in four Korean households fell into the so-called absolute poverty range for at least one year between 2005 and 2009, a study shows. A household is classified as experiencing absolute poverty if its total income before tax plus government benefits amounts to less than the minimum cost of living.

      According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs on Monday, a joint study with Seoul National University of 5,637 households showed that 24 percent fell into absolute poverty for at least one year during that period. And 35.1 percent of the households experienced relative poverty, meaning their total income was less than half of the median income, which stood at W3.6 million for a four-person household in 2009 (US$1=W1,127).

      Households were more prone to suffer relative poverty if the head of the family was old and less educated. Households where the chief breadwinner was under 50 years fell into relative poverty less than once on average over the five-year period. But the instance rose to 1.22 times if the head of the household was in his or her 60s and to 2.91 times if he was in his 70s or older.

      Households led by breadwinners with only a junior high school education or less saw relative poverty around twice over the period, but less than once if they were led by a person with at least a high school diploma. Households led by a woman were over three times more susceptible to poverty than those led by a man. The former experienced poverty 2.24 times on average while the figure for the latter stood at 0.67 times. Experts attribute the gaps to fewer employment opportunities for women, the aged and those with least education.

      Nine percent of the households surveyed received state welfare payments, and 54.9 percent of them were unable to get back on their own feet throughout the surveyed period. Once a household's economic situation gets worse to the extent that it becomes eligible for government support, it seems to become difficult to emerge from poverty, with only 9 percent of such households being able to overcome the situation in 2009.

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