3.22 million workers in South Korea paid less than minimum wage

The number of workers who were paid less than the minimum wage was 3,215,000 last year, the second highest annual figure after 2019’s 3,386,000.
By: | April 20, 2022

This was according to a survey conducted by the Korea Employers Federation (KEF), which also showed that the number of workers earning less than the minimum wage breached 3 million for the first time in 2018 and has remained above that level since. The minimum wage was raised by 16.4% in 2018 from the previous year.

The number of salaried workers who were paid less than the minimum wage last year formed 15.3% of the total of 20,992,000 workers.

By industry, the ratio of workers paid less than the minimum wage varied greatly. It was highest in the agricultural, forestry and fisheries industry at 54.8%, followed by 40.2% in the lodging and restaurant industry.

On the other end of the spectrum, the ratio was the lowest at 1.9% in the information and telecommunications industry, 3.5% in the professional, science and technical service industry, and 5.2% in the manufacturing industry.

READ: South Korea’s unemployment rate in March near historical low

The KEF survey also found an inverse correlation between the ratio and the size of the employer – the smaller the scale of the employer, the higher the ratio of workers who are paid less than the minimum wage.

The ratio of workers who were paid less than the minimum wage was 2.7% at larger employers with 300 or more workers, while that at employers with less than 30 workers was 22.1%. For employers with less than five workers, it spiked to 33.6%, according to The Dong-a Ilbo.