[EDITORIALS]Middle class, R.I.P.Our society is experiencing a rapid decrease in the number of middle-class households. According to a JoongAng Ilbo survey conducted at the end of last year, only 56 percent of respondents considered themselves to be middle class, compared with 70 percent in 1994.
The number of self-professed middle-class households has fallen when it should have been rising. Most of such households are bitter about their situation, spiteful of those who have money and promising jobs. Such a negative atmosphere makes it hard for a healthy competitive spirit and a sense of responsibility to take over society. According to the survey, the weakening of the middleclass in turn prolongs the economic recession and fuels anti-business, anti-rich class hostility. It also acts as a background element, aggravating the ideological tension between right-wing and left-wing forces and worsening management-labor disputes. The sharp decrease in the middle class, which is the main force in the formation of public opinion and economic activity, means that the state of our society is worsening overall.
The problem is that the middle class has weakened considerably during the Roh Moo-hyun administration. This government’s policy of putting wealth redistribution and welfare ahead of economic growth has focused on expanding support for low-income families and those below the poverty line. However, the result of such a policy was not the advancing of low-income families into the middle class but the descent of middle-class families into the circle of poverty. It is difficult to lift those below the poverty line into the middle class through a policy of taking more from those who have to give more to those who don’t. In conclusion, the results of the survey show that this government’s policy has dampened our society’s economic vigor and dispirited the middle class by adding to the burden on them, in consequence cutting the number of middle-class households.
The restoration of the middle class is now our most urgent task in order to prevent the fissures and growth of political tension within our society. There is no other way to achieve this but through enhancing our economy through growth. We must create stable jobs and provide channels of income through encouraging competition and raising the level of corporate activities. We will not see the middle class flourish by dragging them down under the pretext of resolving the rich-poor gap. Instead, what we must do is give those fallen behind the motivation and the opportunity to raise into the middle class.