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Workers’ wage gap hits new record in 2011

The gap between workers in the highest and lowest wage brackets hit its widest margin ever last year, a labor research institute said Sunday, pointing to the country’s increasing wage polarization.

Last year, the country’s highest wage bracket representing the top 20 percent of wage earners took home 5.4 times the salary received by the lowest bracket representing the bottom 10 percent, the Korea Labor Institute said.

Last year’s gap marks the starkest level recorded since the country’s statistical agency began in 2002 to compile the economic activity population survey on which the labor institute’s report is based.

The latest level also matches the gap seen in 2009, right after the global financial crisis, the labor report showed. The wage gap, however, narrowed to 5.1-fold the next year.

Prior to 2009, the figure moved within the 5.0-5.2 range, the report also said.

The report also pointed out that the gap between the lowest wage bracket and the average wage bracket rose to the widest level since 2001 last year.

The average wage earners took home 3.4 times the salary received by the bottom 10 percent in 2011, compared with 2.4 in 2010 and 2.3 for 2009.

The wage gap in South Korea is one of the widest among 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

As of 2009, for which the latest global data is available, the country’s wage gap is the third widest, following Israel and the United States, according to the report. (Yonhap News)