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Study finds up to 23% salary gap by region

Salaries in Korea vary by up to 23 percent depending on where workers went to high school, college and found first employment, a study showed Tuesday.

According to the study published by the Korean Labor Economic Association, the average monthly pay of workers who went to high school, graduated college and earned their first jobs outside Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province was 1.86 million won ($1,650).

That is 5.1 percent lower than the monthly salary of 1.96 million won for all Koreans studied in the report and 7.9 percent lower than the 2.02 million won earned by those who stayed in the capital region for their high school, university and first employment.

Workers who moved to the capital area for college and landed a job there received 2.12 million won in starting salary, 14 percent higher than the earnings of those who stayed outside the metropolitan area the whole time.
The highest salary earners were the group who graduated high school and university in the capital region, but moved out of the capital region for employment elsewhere.

They made 2.43 million won a month, 23.5 percent higher than those who had never entered Greater Seoul for their high school, university and first jobs.

The study is based on 2016 population migration data from the Korea Employment Information Service.

Cho Dong-hun, an economics professor at Hallym University who authored the study, pointed to brain drain from outside the metropolitan region, as talented people would be incentivized to migrate to the capital region.

Such wage gaps and talent leak will eventually translate into a greater socioeconomic disparity, he said.

“Migration of college graduates from the non-capital region to the capital region is vastly apparent, and this is concerning in the aspect of ‘talent leak,’” Cho said in the report.

Systematic efforts are needed to create a sufficient number of quality jobs across regions to stop the brain drain, he added.

By Ko Jun-tae (