Income, job security polarised due to virus

28-Oct-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The number of salaried workers stood at 20.44 million in August, down 113,000 from a year earlier, the first-ever drop since the government began compiling related data in 2003, statistics agency said Tuesday. Of the total, 63.7 percent, or 13.02 million people are regular workers and the remaining 7.42 million, or 36.3 percent are irregular workers.

The unprecedented decline was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to wreak havoc on the job market, exacerbating income and job security polarisation between the high-income white-collar office workers well protected by labour unions and low-income, contract-based temporary workers left vulnerable to virus-induced layoffs and pay reductions.

Data from Statistics Korea showed that of the 113,000 jobs lost, 58,000 were lost by regular workers, while the remaining 53,000 were lost by irregular workers.

While irregular workers lost slightly fewer jobs, the dip in their average monthly income was more pronounced.

Monthly salary earned by salaried workers averaged 3.23 million won ($2,600) in the June-August period, up 69,000 won year-on-year, whereas the average monthly earnings of irregular workers was 1.71 million won, down 18,000 won from the year before.

The pay gap was 1.52 million won, the widest since 2004, when the statistics agency began compiling data.

The irregular workers accounting for 36.3 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from a year earlier is hardly an indication of increase in quality jobs, because the figures reflect the total number of jobs were lost faster than the decline of irregular jobs.

The year-on-year loss is consistent with continued job market woes following the virus outbreak. The hospitality industry lost 71,000 jobs, year-on-year, followed by manufacturing (down 67,000) and education services (down 41,000).

The job losses would have been much more severe without the 133,000 year-on-year increase in the number of jobs offered for senior citizens, long criticised by economists as short-term, low-quality “time-killing” activities at best.

The only industry that added jobs was construction showing a gradual sign of recovery, which in turn could induce demand for short-term hiring of day labourers. The industry added 148,000 jobs in August, year-on-year.

Regular workers worked 40.7 hours a week, 10 hours more than 30.7 hours per week put in by irregular workers.

The Tuesday’s report adds to the concern that the virus is accelerating social inequality.

The statistics agency’s report released in August showed the country reported a drop in earned, business and asset incomes in the April-June period all at once, the first in 17 years since the agency began compiling related data.

Also of note was that the drop in earned income, the first since 2009, was brought on by a steep increase in the number of jobs lost in the second quarter.

Seoul National University economist Kim So-young said the government should recognise the clear limit of creating low-paid jobs since it would do little to improve worsening economic and financial conditions of low-income earners that suffered layoffs, unpaid leave schemes and pay cuts.

“The income gap is becoming wider, and the situation will see no immediate improvement in the near term, may be not ever. The government should come up with measures on how best to use taxpayers’ money instead of devising ways to create a statistical illusion to make jobs data look better,” he added.


Category: Korea

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