More than half of Korea's salaried workers earn less than W2 million a month, the Chosun Ilbo's analysis of regional wage statistics posted by Statistics Korea shows (US$1=W1,183). Some 54.3 percent earned under W2 million a month as of the fourth quarter of 2011.
Some 2.41 million or 13.9 percent of all 17.31 million wage earners nationwide made less than W1 million, and 40.4 percent between W1 million and W2 million.
Given the minimum cost of living for a family of four at W1.49 million, sole breadwinners earning less than W2 million a month barely eke out a living after paying tax and insurance. Their spouses have no choice but to work.
A whopping 87.7 percent of 5.24 million temporary and other non-regular workers earned less than W2 million each month. Among regular employees, only 42.2 percent earned less than 2 million.
This brings home once again how urgent it is to address the issue of non-regular employment amid the growing income gap. The latest finding shows that college graduates are being squeezed into lower-quality jobs, with 27 percent of graduates earning less than W2 million a month.
The analysis shows that government statistics no longer remotely reflect the real situation. Official figures purport to show that the number of new workers is increasing by about 500,000 a month on-year.
"It looks as though the number of new jobs increased significantly, but they were mostly low-paying temporary jobs to be taken by those who were forced to work because the main breadwinners do not earn enough money," said Lee Joon-hyup of the Hyundai Research Institute.