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Reasons why 9th-grade civil servant’s first-month salary is lower than minimum wage

Reasons why 9th-grade civil servant’s first-month salary is lower than minimum wage

Posted July. 24, 2023 07:47,   

Updated July. 24, 2023 07:47


The following year’s minimum wage is decided to be 9,860 won per hour, up 240 won (2.5 percent) from this year. It is equivalent to a monthly salary of 2,060,740 won, assuming eight work hours per day for five days a week. Weekly holiday pay is included in the calculation, which refers to a legal allowance paid for one week of working without missing work. For example, a wage for six days is paid if an employee works for five days without missing work.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government Employees' Union issued a statement on Thursday, requesting to make the first base pay for the ninth-grade civil servant meet the minimum wage requirement. According to the union, the first base pay for the ninth-grade civil servant has been below the minimum wage since 2018. This year, it is 239,780 won less than the minimum wage as the monthly salary is only 1,770,800 won, which is 1.7 percent higher than the previous year. As civil servants are not categorized as employees according to the Labor Standards Act, they don’t even get paid weekly holiday pay.

“While some say that civil servants receive a lot of extra pay even though their base pay is low, however, this does not consider the fact that 20 to 30 percent of their wage is deducted as public charge and tax,” says the labor union. “Due to the common belief that the average pay for civil servants is high, the low wage of lower-grade civil servants has been neglected.” According to the labor union, the newly-hired low-grade civil servant’s net pay is similar to or lower than the minimum wage, even with some extra pay. Multiple civil servants posted on an online community of office workers, ‘Blind,’ that their net pay is less than two million won.

A woman in her 20s who passed the test to become a ninth-grade nine civil servant last year gave up her position and is preparing to apply for other jobs. After three years of studying for the test, she finally became a civil servant, which was her dream, but she thought the salary was too low. “As the pension for public officials, which was the only advantage of being a civil servant, continues to get reduced, I didn’t want my life to be held down by it.” An increasing number of young people are resigning from public official positions. According to the Government Employees Pension Service, 13,032 public officials with less than five years of experience resigned last year, which is 72.6 percent higher than in 2019. According to the 2022 survey by the Korea Institute of Public Administration, the No. 1 reason low-grade civil servants in their 20s and 30s wish to resign was low pay.

While the current situation was caused by a slow increase in pay for public officials, another factor is the fact that the minimum wage became politicized and increased significantly. The Moon Jae-in administration, which pledged to increase the minimum wage to 10,000 won, raised it by 7.2 percent on average per year, and the Park Geun-hye administration raised it by 7.4 percent on average per year to boost domestic demand. Despite the opposition from small business owners, the current administration is also continuing the trend by raising it by five percent this year, followed by a 2.5 percent increase next year.

In most advanced countries, an independent committee or an expert group decides the minimum wage. However, only nine members representing public interests appointed by the government have voting rights on this matter in Korea. The minimum wage, which should be decided by carefully analyzing the macroeconomic situation and the labor market, has become part of the government’s policies.

Most experts claim that a structure to set the minimum wage independently from the labor, business, and government should be set up. The current structure of deciding the minimum wage based on negotiations between 27 labor, business, and government representatives is pointed out as the culprit for politicizing the minimum wage. The government should reform the minimum wage setting structure as soon as possible to run a rational system while reducing tensions surrounding it.