Cries from all aroundIncome disparities are worsening despite the Moon Jae-in administration’s “inclusive” agenda that is supposed to leave no one behind in terms of growth. The jobs and income disparity data is becoming more and more embarrassing for authorities. In a household income survey for the third quarter released by Statistics Korea, the disparity in the average income of the top and bottom 20 percent widened 5.52 times, the worst result for the third quarter since 2007. Despite colossal fiscal spending on social welfare and jobs, income inequalities are widening due to deteriorating livelihoods of the poor.
The incomes of the bottom 20 percent sank 7 percent on year in the third quarter. Their incomes decreased three quarters in a row ever since the minimum wage hike went up 16.9 percent in January. The number of jobs added against a year-ago period in the January-October period was 97,000, just a third of the 328,000 added in the same period in 2017. The segment for low-wage earners was the hardest hit. Hourly and part-time jobs in wholesale, retail, lodging and restaurants decreased sharply. Permanent salaried workers increased by 200,000 to 300,000 in the third quarter. The Blue House highlights this section to argue that its income-led growth policy has helped improve the quality of jobs. But it is neglecting the most vulnerable class.
Increasing job opportunities is as important as improving the quality of work. But the Moon administration has been entirely engrossed with making salaried jobs. The minimum wage was raised by double digits over two years in a row.
Employers were arm-twisted to upgrade their contract work force. Legal work hours were slashed. Union-backed policies helped people who already held secure jobs. But those who don’t find it harder to work.
The household income report in the second quarter was dubbed the worst in a decade. The Blue House argued that the data supports the government’s policies. Not so this time. A presidential spokesman said the Blue House found the data “painful.” Still it won’t change the policy direction.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has reiterated its warning that Seoul need to moderate the minimum wage policy. It predicted the unemployment problem will continue into 2020. It is baffling why the government refuses to hear the cries from all around.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 23, Page 30