S. Korea’s real household income inches up amid inflation

Household income added 3.9 percent on-year in the fourth quarter of 2023, but inflation-adjusted real income through wages and business operations fell for the first time in more than a year, data showed Thursday. The average household earned 5.02 million won (US$3,762) per month in the October-December period, up from 4.83 million won tallied a year earlier, according to Statistics Korea. It marked the second straight quarterly increase. Income earned through wages inched up 1.5 percent on-year to an average of 3.17 million won per month per household, and gains from business operations went up 1.6 percent to 1.04 million won. Transfer income backed by state support jumped 17.7 percent to 671,000 won, and property income spiked 80.3 percent to 52,000 won. The inflation-adjusted real income inched up 0.5 percent on-year in the fourth quarter. In detail, real income from wages fell 1.9 percent, marking the first fall since the third quarter of 2022. Real household income from business operations also de creased 1.7 percent, the fifth quarterly fall amid weak consumption and an economic slowdown, the agency said. Monthly household spending went up 5.1 percent on-year to 2.83 million won in the fourth quarter amid high consumer prices. Housing expenses advanced 9.5 percent and spending on health services added 9.2 percent. Expenditures on food and accommodations rose 4.3 percent and household spending on leisure and culture went up 12.3 percent. Non-consumption expenditures, which include interest and taxes, gained 5.6 percent. By income bracket, the average monthly income of the top 20 percent households rose 3.6 percent on-year to 10.8 million won, and their average spending climbed 8 percent on-year to 7.22 million won per month. The bottom 20 percent also saw their monthly income rise 4.5 percent on-year to 1.18 million won, but their spending shed 0.5 percent to 1.48 million won, the data showed. Meanwhile, the income gap between the haves and have-nots narrowed in the fourth quarter on state socia l welfare policy measures. The country's distribution ratio for disposable income, a key barometer of earnings equality, reached 5.3 in the fourth quarter, down from 5.55 the previous year, which means the top 20 percent income bracket had 5.3 times more earnings than those in the bottom 20 percent over the cited period. Source: Yonhap News Agency