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Stark difference in pay in Korea between sexes

Some say sexism is to blame, others argue men have higher income jobs

July 10,2009
Korea is still among the most unfavorable countries for women to work within the world’s most advanced economies when it comes to wages, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Using two different sets of data, the OECD report showed that Korean women are likely to earn significantly less than Korean men, though some analysts dispute the findings.

A recent OECD working paper, citing the 2008 OECD employment outlook, said that Korea’s male workers received 38 percent more than Korean female workers, a discrepancy that was the highest among 18 OECD countries. The 2008 employment outlook, as cited by the paper, did not have the figures for the other 12 OECD members. The average gender wage gap at the OECD, based on the 2008 data, was 18 percent. Japan came second among the 18 members at 33 percent, followed by Germany in distant third at 23 percent.

The OECD family database, the paper also cited, compared all 30 OECD members with data available that could be several years old for some countries and said Korea had the fourth-highest gender wage difference.

The average for the 30 countries, according to the family database, was 18.6 percent with only Turkey, Mexico and Greece coming ahead of Korea at 51 percent, 46 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

According to the Labor Ministry, the average monthly wage for Korean men in 2007 was 3.039 million won ($2,377), as much as 59 percent higher than 1.908 million won for women.

Some analysts attribute the gender wage gap in Korea to a deep-rooted sense of male superiority. Some point to the fact that more men work in higher-income areas for longer terms in higher positions.

“Like many other countries, more women in Korea are working part-time or in places with poorer working conditions compared to men,” said an official of the Labor Ministry, on condition of anonymity. The official said the male superiority factor has been subsiding quickly. “Few companies nowadays consider the gender factor. Things will get better gradually,” he said.

The working paper also positioned Korea at the bottom of the OECD countries in terms of fertility rate. Korea’s fertility rate, which is the number of children a woman has in her lifetime, was 1.08, the paper said, citing the OECD Factbook 2008. Japan followed at 1.26.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]



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