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Posted : 2011-05-20 18:28
Updated : 2011-05-20 18:28

Campaign to tackle wide gender wage gap

97 more days of work for women to see salary equal to men

By Kim Rahn

Lim Jin-sun, a 56-year-old cleaning lady works at the Government Complex in Daejeon and was paid 968,260 won for April. But her male colleague who does the same work took home 1.05 million won.

“They were hired at almost the same time and both of them clean, but Lim earns less than her male counterpart. The only difference is their gender,” said Choi Jeong-suk, a staffer at the Korean Federation of Women Workers’ Unions, an affiliate of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.

Such unfair treatment is not rare in Korea. According to the Korea Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW), the wage gap by gender here is the widest among 26 OECD member nations.

Relevant data showed Korean women earn 38.8 percent less than men on average: If a male worker earns 1 million won per month a female employee receives 612,000 won.

The gap is more than double the OECD members’ average difference of 16 percent.

“For doing the same work as men, many women are paid less without objective evaluation. The number of women in higher-ranking positions is also smaller than that of men, and many women are engaged in jobs in service fields where the salary is small in general,” said Hwang Eun-mee, president of the federation.

According to the BPW International’s calculation, Korean women have to work 97 days more than men for their salary to be on par.

To recognize public awareness of this situation and reduce the gap, the Korean federation designated May 25 as “Equal Pay Day” and will hold a rally in Myeong-dong in central Seoul today, the first of its kind in Korea.

“We’ve selected May 25 to be Korea’s Equal Pay Day, as it is the 97th day from Jan. 1, excluding weekends and holidays,” Hwang said.

Many other BPW member countries have held similar campaigns by setting their own date according to their own disparity: This year, New Zealand held it on Feb. 18, Spain on Feb. 22, EU on March 5, Canada on March 18, Poland on April 2, Chicago on April 12, and France on April 15.

If Korea’s salary gap becomes narrower, Equal Pay Day will be set earlier than May 25, Hwang said.

“Reducing the wage gap is the most important element in raising women’s rights at the moment. It is not only an issue for women but also that of men, as a woman’s salary is related to a family’s combined income,” said Park Young-hai, Asia-Pacific regional coordinator of BPW International.

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