Nothing to cheer aboutBoth the ruling party and the government are busy turning the latest disastrous income disparities to their favor. Rep. Park Kwang-on, a senior member of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), claimed the fourth quarter household income data heightened the need to push ahead with policies to aid the income of the working class. He argued the nominal and real incomes of Korean households had all grown, refuting the “overhyped fall of income in the bottom 20-percent income bracket.”
In a radio program, Fair Trade Commission Chairman Kim Sang-jo criticized the “political framing” of blaming the income-led growth policy for the worsening economy. Instead, he pointed to the demographic changes from the thinning and aging population as changes in the statistic compiling for the poor data.
Officials from Statistics Korea, which issued the latest report, said that as social welfare benefits have increased sharply, it was aiding the lives of lower-income people.
They are not entirely wrong. The share of the aged population in the bottom 20-percent income class accounted for 42 percent and contributed to their 55.75-percent unemployment ratio. State handouts also helped narrow the gap of the top and bottom 20-percent income groups to 5.47 times, down from 9.32 times. But that does not change the fact the lives of low-income families and individuals have become tougher. The Moon Jae-in administration must seriously contemplate whether it is going in the right direction to uphold its slogan of creating a society where everyone lives better.
It must also coolly examine the damages from the sharp increases in the minimum wage and other policies to artificially inflate income. The ruling party and government are turning a blind eye to the negative factors and are instead busy championing their policies. That’s why DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan’s promises to fix what needs to be fixed offer little comfort.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 25, Page 30