Record Back Wages Owed to Workers

  • By Kwak Chang-yeol

    January 30, 2019 13:54

    Back wages owed to workers by their employers surpassed W1.6 trillion for the first time last year (US$1=W1,119). It was mostly small businesses with fewer than 30 staff that were unable to pay them.

    According to the Labor Ministry, back wages rose 15 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, and 352,000 people or 1.7 percent of the total workforce had not been paid in full.

    Small manufacturers were the biggest offenders with 39 percent of owed wages totaling W644.9 billion, followed by builders with W292.6 billion or 18 percent, and wholesale, retail and hospitality with W218.7 billion or 13 percent.

    Small businesses with five to 29 workers owed W645.8 billion in back wages or 39 percent of the total, and those with fewer than five staff owed W472.3 billion or 29 percent.

    Some 146,000 workers in small businesses went unpaid, compared to 38,000 in companies with more than 100 employees.

    In the U.S. and Japan, only 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent of workers went unpaid in 2016.

    Since the proportion is so much higher in Korea, the government will raise the amount the state pays to compensate for back wages from W4 million to W10 million in July this year. It will also become possible to pay out the money without a court ruling and simply require a government labor inspector to check.

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