This study examines the current status of the social security system in Korea—encompassing the national health insurance, the workers’ compensation insurance, the pension and retirement benefits, the unemployment insurance, the public work programs, and social welfare services—with an objective of finding and discussing measures for improvement and advancement.
It has been a common experience of industrialized countries to see economic development accompany a growing demand for social services. South Korea has achieved remarkable economic growth thanks to its export-oriented industrialization strategy, but has lagged behind other similarly industrializing countries in terms of social services due to the more pressing need to enhance national defense in the face of the immediate military threat posed by North Korea. The concentration of population, and, by extension, of social services in urban areas is another major problem. The proportion of Korean population living in cities increased from 28 percent in 1961 to over 51 percent by 1971, with the migration pattern especially prominent in the working class. Over this decade, the mortality rate has declined significantly, while the standard of living has greatly improved. The Gini coefficient also increased from 0.344 in 1865 to 0.404 in 1978, indicating that income inequality is also on rise.
The number of citizens under national health insurance has also increased by 23 percent from 1960 to 1980 to reach 8.75 million, over 67 percent of whom live in Seoul and other major cities. Yet the national health insurance has failed to provide universal—or qualitatively equal—healthcare. The number of participants in the workers’ compensation insurance has grown at an even more dramatic pace, from 60,000 in the 1960s to over 3.6 million today. The cost of the workers’ compensation insurance has also increased from KRW 75 million in 1964 to KRW 59.1 billion in 1979, reflecting the progress of industrialization in Korea.
The number of participants in the pension and retirement pension programs—government employees, including soldiers and teachers—was 680,000 in 1979, merely 5.6 percent of the total national population. However, these participants benefit far more from these social security programs than others, and for longer periods (about two decades more). As insurance premiums in these programs continue to rise in line with the inflation rate, the government needs to increase the subsidies it provides for these programs.
The number of participants in the unemployment insurance has increased by approximately 3.8 percent, from 442,000 in 1978 to 672,000 by the second quarter of 1980. The number of participants in this insurance is expected to continue to increase with the progress of Korea’s industrialization. As the majority of these participants are residents of cities and industrial towns, the government needs to introduce measures to ensure greater fairness in unemployment insurance benefits for urban and rural residents alike.
Social services, intended to safeguard human dignity, should be more evenly distributed between cities and rural areas. The absence of a clear definition of the concept and the shortage of a skilled workforce continue to prevent social services in Korea from quality improvements.
사회보장제도의 정책과제와 발전방향(A study on the improvement and reform of the social security system)
|Series Title; No||연구보고 / 88-02|
|Subject Country||South Korea(Asia and Pacific)|
|Subject||Social Development < Social Welfare|
|Holding||KDI; KDI School|