Youth subsidy recipients are not all poor

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Youth subsidy recipients are not all poor

More than 100 recipients of the Seoul city government’s program to financially support unemployed and underemployed young adults come from affluent families and backgrounds, some earning 210 million won ($192,135) a year, according to recent data exclusively uncovered by the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government in August handed out the first 500,000 won monthly cash allowances to 2,831 unemployed or underemployed young adults in the city, aged between 19 and 29. The program was part of a five-year plan called Seoul Youth Guarantee, and the city government was to provide 3,000 young adults with the monthly cash allowance for six months, budgeting 9 billion won for the program.

“Some 500,000 young adults are standing at the brink, suffering long-term unemployment or unequal employment contracts,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon wrote on his Facebook page last month. “The expression the applicants used most in their applications speaks for itself: ‘I don’t have.’”

Yet, according to data from Seoul Metropolitan Council Rep. Lee Suk-ja, the subsidy may not have been channeled to the right recipients, after all.

According to Rep. Lee’s data on the youth subsidy recipients, 114 of the recipients’ families pay more than 180,000 won per household in their monthly national health insurance bill. Given that the monthly health insurance fee is calculated as 3.06 percent of an employee’s income, and given that many of these young adults are unemployed, the data points out that breadwinners of the families are earning more than 5.88 million won monthly per household.

Incidentally, those who pay more than 180,000 won per month for health insurance are in the top 15 percent of the country in terms of income.

Some recipients’ families are paying more than just 180,000 won a month for their health insurance.

One 27-year-old recipient’s family paid an average of 539,160 won toward their monthly health insurance bill from January to June this year, suggesting that the recipient family’s breadwinner earns some 17.5 million won a month.

A 25-year-old recipient’s family paid some 532,440 won per month toward health insurance during the same time period, which translates into some 17.3 million won per month.

What’s more, a family of a 26-year-old recipient who lives in Seongbuk District, northern Seoul, paid 1.7 million won a month for their health insurance bill. At least two more recipients were found to have been paying more than 1 million won a month on their monthly health insurance bill.

“There are some 1,400 people in the country that pay more than 1.7 million won a month for their health insurance,” said an employee of the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS). “And these people are 0.01 percent of those who are registered at the NHIS, no doubt they’re very well-to-do households.”

“The city government pursued the program without the proper procedure or administrative assessments,” Rep. Lee said. “It bulldozed through things too quickly. It will have to re-assess the program from the beginning.”

It is possible to be on one’s parent’s health plan, however, while living alone.

In other words, the high income earned by some parents of applicants is not necessarily a reflection of their children’s quality of life.

The Seoul city government admitted that the selection process may have been erroneous.

“The selection criteria put 50 percent importance on income and another 50 percent on the length of the unemployment period,” said a city government official. “Some 100 recipients of high income families were chosen because they were unemployed for 54 months on average.”

The Seoul city government said it will be making amends to its criteria.

“The new criteria will make sure that 60 percent importance is placed on income and 40 percent on length of unemployment for those from high income families,” the official said.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare shut the program down within a day of the city government’s cash distribution, calling it an illegal social welfare policy that was operating without the ministry’s approval and one that incites immorality in society.

“I received a skin care treatment that costs more than 100,000 won,” a woman in her 20s, a recipient of the subsidy, wrote on her blog. The post has since been deleted.

BY LEE SOO-KI, SEO JUN-SUK [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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