Many People Lose out on Welfare Benefits

  • By Kim Kyung-eun

    May 17, 2022 08:42

    Two out of every 10 people in Korea live in self-imposed social exclusion where they are reluctant to seek welfare benefits even if they are entitled to them.

    The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs asked 8,185 people last fall if they have somewhere to turn to for financial help, and 8.61 percent said yes but did not want such aid while 13.07 percent said no but did not want it either.

    Half of the respondents were in the low-income bracket, so this would have been a real issue for them.

    Social workers blame the limitations of the social welfare system, which requires needy people to apply for benefits and prove how poor they really are. Reports by civic groups have pointed out the problems in the selection of worthy recipients.

    They said the application process is complicated and selection criteria narrow, while many people are reluctant to apply for benefits for fear of being labeled poor, while benefits are limited and badly publicized.

    Some 8.84 million elderly people were eligible for basic state pensions last year, but only 5.97 million actually drew them. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has been notifying families of state benefits they are eligible for based on arrears in health insurance and utility payments since 2016 and was able to locate around 200,000 recipients in 2016 and 1.3 million last year.

    Chung Won-sang at Blue Whale Recovery Center, which supports young Koreans who have isolated themselves from society, said, "Under new guidelines, living subsidies are being offered to needy people regardless of dependents, but many people still don't know that. And many people who were once rejected no longer want to reapply."

    Chung Sae-jung at KIHASA said, "There has been an increase in the people who voluntarily choose to isolate themselves from society since the coronavirus pandemic started, and ignoring them could lead to social problems later on."

    And Chung Ick-joong at Ewha Womans University said, "Instead of simply notifying applicants that they have failed to meet the requirements for welfare benefits, the government should take a proactive approach and inform them what other help they can get." 

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