When data is siloed, it’s useless

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When data is siloed, it’s useless

Pension reforms call for exact data on how much money each individual and household have contributed or are set to receive. But comprehensive statistics on pension benefits are nowhere to be seen in government ministries. Data on basic and national pensions are handled by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, whereas data on retirement pensions is managed by the Ministry of Employment and Labor. While data on private pensions are controlled by the National Tax Service, data on housing pensions are handled by various government bodies, including the Financial Services Commission. It took one year for Statistics Korea to reach an agreement to share all this data with those entities.

Other basic types of data are elusive, including the poverty rate for the elderly in Korea. That rate refers to the ratio of senior citizens older than 65 whose disposable incomes are lower than the median income of the entire population. The rate for Korea is 43.1 percent, allegedly the highest among OECD member nations. But that figure was based on a survey by Statistics Korea on the livelihoods of 20,000 households, which suggests a lack of accuracy. If data on incomes and pensions dispersed in several institutions can be linked to the census of the statistics office, more accurate data can be available. Yet inter-ministerial cooperation is not done due to a lack of related guidelines.

A common pledge by presidential candidates in the last campaign was to raise the basic incomes for senior citizens. The Moon Jae-in administration’s expansion of part-time jobs for old people also reflect the inaccuracy of statistics. Such promises and policies cannot be effective unless they are backed by concrete data.

A digital platform-based government championed by the incoming administration would be based on accurate data. With related statistics dispersed and separated, many problems will remain unsolvable. Only when the government works on the basis of exact data can it avoid critical mistakes such as the income-led growth policy under the Moon Jae-in administration.

The problem with our government’s fiscal process is an overemphasis on deliberating budget bills while ignoring the pivotal settlement process to check efficient spending of the money. As a result, people are accustomed to watching a war of nerves among lawmakers to get pork-barrel projects for constituencies. If the new government can collect accurate data and get data shared, it will help Korea grow up.
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