The minimum wage for 2021 was decided on July 14. The minimum wage system aims to ensure the minimum wage level for workers so that it can contribute to the sound development of the national economy by stabilizing the livelihood of workers and improving the quality of labor. The minimum wage is determined by the minister of employment and labor on March 31 every year. He has to ask the Minimum Wage Council to review it, notifying their decision by August 5 every year. The Minimum Wage Council consists of nine representatives of labor, management, and public interest delegates, respectively.
The minimum wage for 2021 was set at 8,720 won, an increase of 130 won (about 1.5 percent) from this year. This rate of increase is the lowest since the South Korean minimum wage system was introduced in 1988. This is the result of considering the financial difficulties of small businesses and small business owners in the face of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The Korea Economic Research Institute predicted Korea’s economic growth rate to be -2.3 percent in terms of GDP this year. This is the lowest level since 1998 when the nation was hit by the foreign exchange crisis.
College students have no choice but to pay attention to the minimum wage because many work part-time jobs and earn money out of worries about tuition and living expenses as they start living apart from their parents.
Students’ opinions on determining next year’s minimum wage are as follows: “After the COVID-19 crisis, the number of people who work part-time decreased a lot. No matter how low the minimum wage rises, it can only be burdensome for those who run the store. I’m worried that it will come back to reducing jobs.”, “If the minimum wage increases by only 130 won compared to this year, many students will have trouble living on the money they earn from part-time jobs. Therefore, we need to raise the minimum wage more.” As such, there are various opinions among students about the minimum wage.
It will be challenging to determine a fair minimum wage for all, but the government should try to produce results that will satisfy as many people as possible.