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The Working Poor Reach 1.3 Million

Posted February. 06, 2005 22:29,   


It is estimated that the number of the working poor, meaning those who are able and willing to work but mired in poverty because they have failed to land a decent job, reached some 1.3 million.

It was also reported that a majority of the working poor are not covered by the social security net, as they are not subject to the National Basic Livelihood Security Act, which supports minimum standard of livelihood.

As the working poor is a main reason of a widening gap of incomes between rich and poor, it is pointed out that a comprehensive measure to provide stable jobs and incomes is urgently needed.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the Presidential Committee on Social Inclusion on February 6, the number of the working poor in the country was estimated at about 1.32 million as of end of last year, only 300,000 among whom are subject to the National Basic Livelihood Security Act.

That is because the rest are not covered by the Act as they have dependent families with incomes and a certain amount of means.

The government calculates that the 1.32 million working poor are made up of 450,000 employees, the 110,000 unemployed, and the 760,000 economically inactive.

The reason why there are large numbers of those who are economically inactive among the working poor is that they are not reflected well in the official statistics of unemployment as they are temporary or part-time workers who continue to change their position from employed to unemployed.

A majority of the working poor who are mainly engaged in temporary jobs are classified as the economically inactive when the labor market is weak, as they give up job seeking.

The working poor are continuing an instable livelihood, while frequently changing their position from employed to unemployed to economically inactive.

Although the country does not feel the shock of the financial crisis anymore, the number of poor is not decreasing with the increase in the number of the working poor.

The absolute poverty rate (the ratio of households among total households of which income is below the minimum livelihood standard) rose from 3.93 percent in 1997 to 8.16 percent and 9.35 percent in 1998 and 1999, respectively, after the financial crisis.

The absolute poverty rate was on the decline from 7.61 percent in 2000 to 6.50 percent in 2001, and to 5.21 percent in 2002, but started to rise again in 2003 with 6.13 percent.

The employment rate of the working poor stayed at 34 percent, a far lower level than the average rate of 62 percent among the rest of the households.

Jong sik Kong kong@donga.com legman@donga.com