Wage Gap Opens up in 'Safe' Professions

  • By Ahn Jun-yong

    October 07, 2016 13:29

    Some lawyers and accountants are struggling despite their traditionally "safe" profession, and the wage gap even within these occupations is widening.

    Some 4,609 professionals except doctors reported annual incomes of less than W24 million or W2 million a month, according to data the National Tax Service submitted on Thursday to the Minjoo Party lawmaker Park Kwang-on (US$1=W1,113). That amounts to 13.8 percent of the 33,319 professionals tallied.

    The most insecure profession is architecture, where 20.1 percent or one in five earned less than W24 million last year. Among lawyers, a smaller group, 17.8 percent made less than W2 million a month, while the proportion was 12.6 percent for real estate surveyors, 11.1 percent for notaries and 10.7 percent for patent attorneys.

    Out of the 4.609 professionals who made less than W24 million a year, 87 percent had either stopped working in their profession altogether or had just started. In other words, competition is intensifying amid a slow economy.

    The total number of professionals rose 16.8 percent from 28,515 in 2011 to 33,319 in 2015. But the NTS said newly registered professionals who only opened their businesses in October last year and earned W10 million until the end of that year were included, which increases the figure.

    But most professionals still make a comfortable living at an average salary of W232.4 million last year. And excluding real estate surveyors, who earned an average W70.8 million last year, other professionals made easily over W100 million.

    Patent attorneys reaped the highest rewards with W625 million, followed by lawyers (W411.5 million), accountants (W323.6 million), customs brokers (W306.2 million), licensed tax advisers (W262 million), notaries (W181 million) and architects (W133 million).

    But one 32-year-old accountant said, "The average salary is meaningless. Not all professionals these days earn high wages, and because people around me think I make a lot of money I can't cut down on expenses for my family and friends."

    As competition intensifies, professionals are resorting to new measures. Small law firms advertise their services via spam text messages, and attorneys set up shop at home to cut down on office expenses.

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