Ulsan Has Twice as Many High Wage Earners as Seoul

      February 26, 2016 13:22

      One out of every 12 salaried workers in the southern port city of Ulsan earn an annual salary of more than W100 million, according to a report by Lee No-geun of the ruling Saenuri Party on Thursday (US$1=W1,243).

      The industrial hub of Ulsan topped the proportion of high wage earners at 8.5 percent, with 32,738 out of 387,142 salaried workers earning six-figure salaries in 2014, 2,478 more than the previous year.

      The rise came as a surprise since the shipping industry slump intensified in 2014 as Hyundai Heavy Industries posted W3 trillion in losses, while automakers in Ulsan also fared poorly.

      Yet the proportion of high-wage earners in Ulsan was more than twice as high as Seoul's 3.9 percent or 227,600.

      By industry, the financial sector had the highest proportion of high wage earners at around 20 percent. Nationwide, 3.2 percent or 526,689 workers made W100 million a year in 2014, a whopping increase of 111,214 compared to the previous year.

      The biggest concentration live in the capital region of Seoul, surrounding Gyeonggi Province and Incheon with 70 percent.

      The proportion of high wage earners in Seoul was unchanged from the previous year, but Incheon and Gyeonggi Province saw their numbers rise 1.2 percentage points and one percentage point to 2.4 percent and 3.5 percent.

      The rise in Gyeonggi Province is probably the result of an increase in big business executives moving to the province following the relocation of Samsung Group affiliates. The province saw its gross regional domestic product in 2014 rise five percent to W329 trillion from 2013, surpassing Seoul for the first time to rank at the top of the nation.

      In the financial sector, 18.3 percent of workers earned six figure salaries, six times higher than the national average of 3.2 percent, according to the National Tax Service.

      Banks alone without other financial services like insurance have an even bigger proportion of high earners. A study by the Korea Institute of Finance last year showed that a whopping 23.1 percent of bankers made more than W100 million a year in 2015, and 2.1 percent made more than W150 million.

      Compared to per-capita GDP, bankers in Korea earn even more than their counterparts in the U.S., UK and Japan, according to the KIF, who are already seen as massively overpaid there.

      Labor costs thus accounted for 62 percent of operating expenses, which is far higher than the U.S.' 46 percent. 

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