Korea's Middle Class Is Shrinking

  • By Choi Kyu-min

    August 14, 2019 13:22

    The proportion of middle-class households has fallen to a record low as income polarization grows.

    Middle-class households took up just 58.5 percent in the first three months of this year, the lowest since statistic began in 2006, according to Statistics Korea.

    Middle-class households earn 50 to 150 percent of the median income.

    Their proportion dropped to 60.5 percent during the global financial crisis in 2009 but then recovered to 64.8 percent in 2015. But it suddenly plummeted to 58.8 percent in 2018, the year after President Moon Jae-in took office.

    The poor population by contrast is bigger than ever. The proportion of households earning less than 50 percent of the median income jumped from 15.9 percent in 2017 to 18.1 percent this year. The rich also proliferated, from 20.4 percent in 2017 to 23.4 percent this year.

    Prof. Shin Se-don of Sookmyung Women's University said, "The middle class is collapsing because decent manufacturing jobs have disappeared and the income of small businesses has shrunk significantly due to the minimum wage hike."

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