The Korea Herald


S. Korea's gender pay gap worst in OECD

South Korean workers' average annual salary hit high of $48,922 in 2022, nearing OECD average, but women earn only 68.8 percent of what men do

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : May 23, 2024 - 14:52

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Commuters transfer subway trains at Sindorim Station in Seoul on Nov. 3, 2022. (Newsis) Commuters transfer subway trains at Sindorim Station in Seoul on Nov. 3, 2022. (Newsis)

South Korea has the worst gender pay gap among the 38 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development according to 2022 data, an OECD estimate showed on Thursday.

This marked the 27th year straight that Asia's fourth-largest economy recorded the most severe gender pay gap among the member states.

The 2022 figure showed Korea's female workers were paid on average 31.2 percent less than their male counterparts in 2022, or 68.8 percent, the data showed. The disparity is higher than any other OECD country and is more than double the OECD average of 12.1 percent. Japan's gender pay gap stood at 21.3 percent and the US' came to 17.0 percent.

Historically, women working in Korea have never earned on average more than 68.9 percent of what male workers earn.

The data shows that over the past three years until 2022, Korea has lost any momentum it had to bridge the gender pay gap. The gap was 31.5 percent in 2020, fell slightly to 31.1 percent in 2021, and increased again in 2022.

In 1992, women working in Korea earned almost half what men earned, as the gender pay gap stood at a 47 percent. It was 12 years later, in 2004, when the country first broke the 40 percent threshold.

A survey by the state-run Korean Women's Development Institute showed in August showed that 54.7 percent of Korea's female respondents said “accumulated gender discrimination in hiring, promotion and placement in the organization” is the reason behind the country's serious gender pay gap.

Korea's male respondents, on the other hand, thought that such differences were due to simply having shorter careers, as 39.6 percent thought the gender pay gap was “due to career breaks caused by childbirth and child rearing, which makes women's average careers shorter than men's.”

In the meanwhile, the average annual salary for South Korea's workers reached an all-time high of $48,922 in 2022.

In terms of average annual salary in Korea ranked 19th out of the 38 members of the OECD. Of the total 38 OECD members, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Turkey were not included in the 2022 data. Those countries’ 2020 and 2021 figures, however, were lower than Korea's.

All of the 18 OECD members ranked above South Korea are classified as developed economies.

The average annual salary for Korea's employees was 91.6 percent of the OECD average of $53,416, according to calculations by the intergovernmental organization headquartered in Paris.

Korea's average annual salary has constantly narrowed its gap with the OECD average. It was 89.7 percent of the OECD average in 2019, 90.4 percent in 2020, 90.6 percent in 2021 and 91.6 percent in 2022.

Iceland topped the ranking with $79,473 in the 2022 average annual salary, exceeding those of Luxembourg, the US, Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark. Meanwhile, Mexico ranked last with $16,685, while Greece and Slovakia were also behind the OECD average.

In average annual salary, Korea has ranked above Japan since 2014. In 2022, Japan ranked 25th with $41,509. Thirty years ago in 1992, Japan's figure came to $40,434, 1.5 times higher than Korea's $26,214.