Korean Families With One Earner Must Work 62 Hours a Week on Minimum Wage to Escape Poverty


It was revealed that in a Korean one-earner family with two children, one parent earning minimum wage must work at least 62 hours a week in order for the household to rise above the poverty line.

This puts Korea at 11th for having the longest working hours on minimum wage out of the 34 OECD countries.

The results were relayed by Kim Hyun Kyung, a researcher from the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs. The figures are the result after tax deductions and includes government support grants for a single parent providing for two children. The definition of “poverty” was set at half of the median family income, which amounted to 2,110,000 won (approximately $1,870) per month. This is also the population that is eligible for basic livelihood security grants.

While Koreans have to work 62 hours at a minimum wage job to go above the poverty line, in Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, the same individual would only have to work half of that time to escape poverty. Countries with longer labor times at minimum wage in order to be above the poverty line included Czech Republic, Chile, Estonia, Greece, Spain, and Slovenia.

The minimum wage in Korea is 5,580 won per hour (approximately $4.95) in 2015, which places it 14th out of the 25 OECD countries with minimum wage. Kim Hyun Kyung said, “Since Korea has lower taxes than other OECD countries, 92% of the minimum wage income goes directly to the worker.” She added, “This means that raising the minimum wage of workers can be useful in fighting poverty. By targeting minimum-wage related social welfare policies, we can fight poverty more effectively.”

Meanwhile, the minimum wage in Korea will be raised to 6,030 won per hour (approximately $5.35).

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