Back To Top

Foreign workers’ average wages meager

Nearly 70 percent of foreign workers in South Korea receive less than 2 million won ($1,700) in monthly wages with the intragroup salary disparity being as wide as 53-fold, a report showed Wednesday.

Statistics submitted by the National Tax Service to Rep. Lee In-young showed that of the 479,527 reported foreign workers, 323,100 were subject to taxation. The total payroll reached 9.45 trillion won. The number of those subject to taxes had increased by 138 percent since 2008, while the total wages surged by 167 percent, the report to the New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker showed.

The average annual salary per worker was 29.3 million won, which was 72 percent of a South Korean worker’s average pay of 40.5 million won.

They both marked an increase from 26.2 million won for foreign workers and 38.2 million won for Koreans in 2008.

Participants attend the 2015 Seoul Global Center Job Fair for Foreign Residents in COEX, southern Seoul, on Tuesday. Yonhap
Participants attend the 2015 Seoul Global Center Job Fair for Foreign Residents in COEX, southern Seoul, on Tuesday. Yonhap


The report, in particular, revealed that 69 percent of the expatriates earned less than 2 million won a month, while those who were paid less than 1 million won a month reached 16 percent.

Rep. Lee said that the NTS started conducting surveys on foreign workers’ employment type and wage status in 2012 on some 10,000 foreign workers. The analysis of their taxation began last year.

“Therefore, the data gathered by the NTS are mostly of those whose employers have made due tax procedures by deducting withholding taxes. It means that the wage level of all foreign workers when including those working illegally would be far lower,” Lee said.

Meanwhile, the wage disparity among the foreign workers was large, with the top 1 percentile’s average yearly salary being 475 million won, higher than their Korean counterparts at 261 million won. They accounted for 16.1 percent of all foreign workers’ income, with most of the wage earners being executives at foreign or Korean corporations, the report said.

Compared to the lowest 1 percentile of foreign workers, whose average yearly wage was 8.91 million won, the salary gap was 53-fold, the report said.

“Considering that foreign workers have acted as a major driving force behind the economic development here, their average wage level is deemed inadequate. ... It is high time that due efforts are paid to improve their working conditions,” Lee said. He also urged the NTS to immediately start gathering proper and detailed statistics of foreign workers in order to make objective evaluations.

From news reports

MOST POPULAR