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(LEAD) Cheong Wa Dae says distribution at worst levels and worsening, causing long-term problems

All Headlines 15:37 June 04, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks, more details, information from 6th para; CORRECTS English spelling of name of presidential chief of staff for policy to Jang Ha-sung from Chang Ha-sung as previously sent)

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- The country's distribution of national wealth is at its worst levels and is continuing to deteriorate, a senior presidential official said Sunday, saying the issue is also causing long-term problems such as economic polarization that require immediate policy initiatives.

Jang Ha-sung, the chief of staff for policy at presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, said the government sought to devise and use a supplementary budget to create new jobs as part of efforts to address the issue of distribution.

The government was expected to announce its bill on the supplementary budget following approval by the Cabinet on Monday.

The extra budget is said to be worth 10 trillion won (US$8.9 billion).

"The government left out most programs that only meet the interests of certain groups or regions from the extra budget, which is largely planned to increase the number of government officials and expand jobs in areas that are closely related to the livelihood of ordinary people such as those in the social services sector," Jang told reporters.

The top presidential secretary on economic policies cited a recent report from the statistics office that showed the country's total income distribution ratio coming to 9.32 at the end of 2016, up from 8.24 a year earlier.

The ratio compares the earnings of those in the top and bottom 20 percent of the income bracket. The latest reading means the top 20 percent of income earners here made 9.32 times more than those in the bottom 20 percent.

Jang also noted the average income of those in the bottom 20 percent plunged 9.8 percent on-year in 2016, an "enormous turnaround" from a 4.6 percent on-year increase the year before.

"What is more worrisome is that their income again dropped 5.2 percent on-year in the first quarter of 2017, meaning a reduction in the income of those in the lower income bracket is not a one-time phenomenon, but is becoming structural," he said.

"If left alone, it will become the source of very serious economic polarization and social tension," he added.

The chief of staff for policy insisted the income of those in the lower income bracket was dwindling simply because their jobs are disappearing faster compared to others, while the ones still remaining are paying less and less to workers.

"In terms of job quantity, the problem will be fundamentally resolved only if we develop new growth engines. Such efforts will continue for the entire five-year term of the new government," Jang said.

"In terms of job qualities, we will work to reduce the wage gap between regular and irregular workers."

President Moon Jae-in has promised to create up to 810,000 new jobs in the public sector alone over his five-year term.

Jang said he and the government will focus all their policy measures on helping implement the president's pledge on job creation.

He said the supplementary budget will be an emergency remedy for what he called a "near disaster-like" unemployment rate, noting the country's overall jobless rate was at a 17-year-high of 4.2 percent in April while the youth unemployment rate also reached a record high level of 11.2 percent in the same month.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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