Owed Wages Expected to Keep Piling up

      August 28, 2019 13:26

      The amount of wages employers owe their staff reached W845.9 billion in the first half of this year, while 174,000 workers did not get paid, according to a report by the Labor Ministry on Tuesday (US$1=W1,214).

      The amount declined from W1.43 trillion in 2016 to W1.38 trillion in 2017, only to rise almost 20 percent to a record W1.65 trillion last year, and this year the amount is expected to reach the same level.

      The ministry said the manufacturing industry owes the highest amount of wages at W225.7 billion, followed by the construction industry (W156.2 billion) and the retail/wholesale and hospitality industry (W119.9 billion).

      Some 71 percent were naturally owed by struggling small businesses that employ fewer than 30 people. One industry source said, "The government has been pushing for the president's so-called 'income-led growth,' but we haven't seen any economic growth and the economy is actually stagnant, so small businesses are probably frustrated as they can't pay their staff."

      Back wages eventually settled by the government have increased from W263.2 billion in 2014 to W373.9 billion last year. Also increasing is the amount of legal fees the government pays to support workers who sue their employers for back pay, which reached a record 95,137 cases last year.

      The ministry said it will investigate some 29,000 businesses that are feared to be unable to pay their workers.

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