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Korea’s gender pay gap is both wide and deep

June 22,2018
One out of five Korean companies have gender pay gaps in which women get paid 51.3 percent of what men earn, according to research released Thursday by job search website Saramin.

The company conducted a survey of human resource managers at 193 companies, and 23.8 percent said their companies have a gender pay gap.

Survey results showed that at companies where a wage gap was present, women earned an average of 51.3 percent of what men earn.

Breaking down that average, 63 percent of the human resources managers said female employees at their companies were paid less than half of what men get, while 10.9 percent said they receive exactly 50 percent. Responses that women received 70 percent of men’s wages took up 6.5 percent. Answers that women earned as much as 80 percent of men’s salaries totaled 10.9 percent. The proportion that answered 90 percent was also 10.9 percent. The remaining 2.2 percent chose “Other,” writing down the exact figure instead of choosing a range.

Half of the human resources managers who admitted to a gender pay gap said male and female employees had different duties, and that the men generally performed roles that were better paid or were core functions of the company.

However, there were also signs that cultural factors were at play. Some 19.6 percent of respondents who admitted pay gaps said a differentiation between male and female employees’ salaries was part of their corporate systems. Promotions were another factor: 19.6 percent said the ratio of men who were promoted was higher than women, while 13 percent said there were more male executives in top management. Fifteen percent said the pay gap was due to a difference in work abilities. Multiple answers were allowed.

Manufacturing was the field in which gender pay gaps were most common: 26.1 percent of HR managers that said gender wage gaps existed in their company worked in this sector, followed by services (19.6 percent) and construction (13 percent).

On whether an employee’s gender affected promotions, 74.1 percent of all respondents said it barely affected the company’s decisions.

But 24.4 percent admitted that male employees tend to be promoted more and faster than their female peers. Those who gave this answer cited career suspension among women due to reasons like giving birth or child care (38.3 percent) and a male-centered corporate culture (34 percent) as main reasons. Multiple answers were allowed.

Around 74 percent of all respondents supported the idea that gender wage gaps should be gradually resolved but 17.6 percent said they believed the gaps were regrettable but natural. A smaller 8.3 percent said the pay differences were justifiable.

“Korea’s gender pay gap has been the largest among OECD countries for 16 years now,” said Lim Min-wook, the head of PR for Saramin.

“An important task in reducing this gap would be prolonging women’s years in service by providing an environment to raise children while working, and providing reasonable compensation for their capacity and achievements.”


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]