Which Korean Industries Have the Largest Gender Pay Gap?

(Source: unknown)

A long time ago, a Korean friend told me that banks were like a microcosm of all Korean workplaces — almost all the tellers were women, and seemed to do most of the actual work, but made the least money. In contrast, their male supervisors seemed to just sit at the back, occasionally approving a form the tellers would bring to them. But they’d probably be paid twice as much.

I don’t know how fair that portrayal was, and indeed later I befriended a Korean bank teller who didn’t think much of it, who loved her work at an all-female branch. Nevertheless, as the following The Joongang Ilbo report makes clear, the banking industry still has the largest gender pay gap, with women making an average of only 57% of what men make.

Undoubtedly, that is primarily because most of the women in banking, well, are tellers, as one banker explains below. On the other hand, it’s also true there are some deeply sexist attitudes within the industry — e.g., women lack a “competitive edge” — that underlie that gender division. For more on that, see this post on the 2009 commercial by Shinhan Bank above, which has a clear message that men should do the thinking while women should merely look good.

Also, after reading this post, compare my “University Graduates: One Woman Hired for every Four Men” one from November, where many commenters pointed out that the companies examined were most heavy industries, for which such a gender division was to be expected. This report sheds more light on that, including the surprising news that it’s actually the Hyundai Motor Group that gives the highest average salaries to women.


7100만원! 여성 연봉 1 기업은 금융권 아닌 / 71 Million Won! It’s not in banking that women have the highest average salary…

The Joongang Ilbo, May 25 2012

성별임금따져보니 / Let’s find out the sex difference in salaries

대기업 여성 연봉 순위는 남성 랭킹과 확연히 달랐다. 1위는 평균 7100만원을 주는 현대자동차였다. 남성 평균(9000만원)의 79% 선이다. 이 회사 남성 직원 평균 근무 연수가 17.8년으로 여성(12.2년)보다 고참이 많다는 점을 감안하면 사실상 남녀 간에 임금격차가 없는 셈이다. 현대차 허정환 이사는 “자동차 산업의 특성상 힘든 생산라인에는 여성이 거의 없고 대부분 상대적으로 연봉이 높은 사무직에서 근무하다 보니 여성의 평균 임금이 높다”고 설명했다. 현대차에서 일하는 여직원은 모두 2442명으로 이 중 생산·정비직은 184명뿐이다.

The order of companies that pay the highest average salaries to men and women are completely different. For women, Hyundai Motor Group is number one, which pays 71 million won a year. This is only 79% of men’s average of 90 million won, but when their level of seniority is taken into account (women’s average number of years worked is 12.2, men’s 17.8) then they’re not significantly different. Asked about this, CEO Heo Jeong-hwan explained: ” The car industry is unique — women do not have the strength to work on the production line, so most do office work, where they make more money than the men on the floor. Out of 2442 women working at Hyundai, only 184 work on the production line or in maintenance.”

현대차뿐 아니라 현대차그룹 계열사들은 대부분 여성의 급여가 높았다. 기아자동차(6400만원)가 88개 대기업 중 3위, 현대모비스(5700만원)가 6위였다. 삼성전자는 여성이 평균 5350만원(11위), 남성은 8860만원을 받았다. 삼성전자는 여성들이 생산 라인에서 많이 일하고 있다. 이 업체는 생산직 여성 수를 사업보고서에 기재하지 않았다.

It’s not just Hyundai Motor Group, but also in companies affiliated with the Hyundai Group in which women’s average salaries are high. Kia Motors comes in at number 3 of 88 large companies with an average of 64 million won, and Hyundai Mobis number 6 with 57 million won. At Samsung Electronics, number 11, women receive 53.5 million won and men 88.6 million won. Many women work on the production line at Samsung Electronics, although The Joongang Ilbo is unaware of exact numbers.


전체 88개 기업의 여성 평균 연봉은 4270만원으로 남성 평균 7002만원의 61%였다. 평균 근무 연수는 남성이 12년, 여성이 7.7년이었다. 대기업 남녀 간 임금 격차에는 이런 근무 기간의 차이 때문에 생긴 부분도 있다.

All together, out of 88 large companies the average women’s wage was 42.7 million won, 61% of the average men’s wage of 70.02 million won. Most of this can be attributed to the difference in the average number of years worked, which is 7.7 years for women and 12 years for men.

성별에 따른 차이는 유통업체가 제일 심했다. 여성 평균 임금(2090만원)이 남성(3191만원)의 43%에 불과했다. 매장에서 상품 진열 같은 시급제 아르바이트를 하는 여성이 많다 보니 생긴 일이다. 최근 들어서는 특히 대형마트나 수퍼마켓에서 아르바이트를 하는 중·장년 여성들이 늘고 있다. 남편은 은퇴하고 자녀들은 청년 취업난에 좀체 일자리를 구하지 못하자 주부들이 생활비를 벌려고 나서는 것이다.

(James — There must be a typo in one of the above figures: 20.9 million won is not 43% of 31.91 million won, but 65%; and this is higher than the 61% mentioned in the last paragraph, even though this paragraph is about the lowest comparative figures. Given that, and the mention of a lot of women working part time, then I’m going to assume that it’s the average women’s salary that is the incorrect one, and that it should be 43% of 31.91 million won, or 13.72 million won)

The highest gender gap was in the sales and distribution industry, with women’s average salary of 13.72 million won being only 43% of men’s 31.91 million. The reason is that most of the women are middle-aged and late middle-aged part-time workers in sales, compelled to work in large supermarkets to make a living because their husbands are retired and their adult children find it difficult to get work.


고액 연봉 직종의 대명사인 금융 쪽도 여성과 남성의 차이가 컸다. 평균적으로 여성(4800만원)이 남성(8460만원)의 57%를 받는 데 그쳤다. 남성 연봉 1위인 하나대투증권의 경우 여성 평균 연봉은 6200만원으로 남성의 절반이 채 되지 않았다. 성별 연봉 격차는 8200만원에 달했다. 한국스탠다드차타드은행 또한 남성은 8900만원으로 전체 순위 7위였지만 여성은 그보다 5300만원 적은 3600만원으로 51위에 그쳤다. 외환은행(차이 4500만원)과 삼성화재(4200만원)도 남성과 여성 간에 급여 차이가 많았다. 금융회사들이 남녀 임금 격차 상위를 줄줄이 차지한 것이다.

The largest gender gap is in the finance industry, with women making an average of 57% (48 million won) of what men make (84.6 million won). In the number 1 company for men, Hana Daetoo Securities, women make an average of 62 million won but men make 144 million, more than half as much again [James – That’s 43% of the men; maybe that figure got moved to the wrong paragraph?]. At Standard Chartered Korea, 7th best for men, they make 89 million won, but the company is only 51st best for women, who make 53 million (a difference of 36 million). At Korea Exchange Bank, the gender gap is again high at 45 million won, as it is at Samsung Fire and Marine Insurance. Across the board, the gender gap is very high in this industry.

이에 대해 스탠다드차타드은행 홍보실 정한용 부장은 “고액 연봉을 받는 사무직이나 영업직은 주로 남성이고 여성은 대부분 계약직 창구 직원(텔러)이기 때문”이라며 “여성의 근속 연수도 남성보다 짧다는 점 역시 작용했다”고 말했다. 통신업종은 남성에 대한 여성 임금 비율이 72%로 가장 격차가 적었다.
김영민 기자

Standard Chartered Korea PR Head Jeong Han-young explained: “The reason for the difference is because in our company, it is mostly men that are involved in business and commercial operations whereas most of the women are irregular workers, working as tellers.” Also, “the male workers have been working for the company for much longer.”

The smallest gender gap was in the telecommunications industry, with women making on average 72% of the men.

Reporter: Kim Yong-Min

Update — Thank you to Sky Kauweloa, who pointed out on the blog’s Facebook page that The Korea Times produced a similar, short report. Alas, it doesn’t help resolving those typos above, but it does have information about some more companies, and also the nice graphic I’ve added on the right: