Associate Research Fellow Heo Jong-ho investigated the changes that came to the Korean people in terms of “Changes in jobs and income,” “Changes in family relationships,” “Changes in the awareness of value and actions related to infectious disease prevention and control,” and “Changes in health.” The findings identified the damage experienced by the people from COVID-19, especially by the vulnerable groups. It predicted that if the pandemic is to go on, there will be greater socioeconomic inequality.
In terms of “Changes in jobs and income,” among the respondents aged 20 and over, 5.5% experienced a change in jobs such as layoffs or closures of business. Among the 5.5%, 55.6% were female and 44.4% were male. Of the total respondents, 19.6% answered that their income decreased, and the amount of decrease of monthly income was KRW 795,000 on average. Although 88.2% of employees (who receive income from an employer) did not experience a decrease in income, 61.2% of those who were self-employed responded that their incomes decreased, and 9.7% of self-employed responded that their monthly incomes decreased by at least KRW one million in average.
In terms of “Changes in family relationships,” 14.8% of the respondents said that their family relationships became better after COVID-19. However, for households in Seoul metropolitan area, public assistance recipient households, and one-person households, family relationships became worse rather than becoming better.
For “Changes in the awareness of value and actions related to infectious disease prevention and control,” 69% of the respondents agreed that it is necessary to sacrifice some aspects of daily life to prevent the spread of the virus. Among the respondents, 55% agreed that those who were infected with the virus were at fault for being so, and 63.2% agreed that it is necessary to disclose information on the movements of those confirmed to have the virus. The percentages of those living in Seoul metropolitan area who agreed with the three statements were approximately 3%-7% lower than those of those not living in Seoul metropolitan area.
For “Changes in health,” 16.6% of the respondents said that they became healthier after COVID-19. It was also noted that the percentage of one-person households who took action to stay healthy was approximately 1%-5% lower than that of other households. The percentage of females who are at high risk of depression was 10% lower than that of males, 19% of the respondents aged 20 and older said that they reduced smoking, whereas 6.9% responded that they smoked even more. Smoking was reduced more for females than for males (Male 18.6% vs. Female 24.2%). Of the respondents, 13.0% answered that they reduced drinking by 1.6 times a week on average. The percentage of males who responded that they reduced drinking was 2.5 times greater than that of females, and 22.0% of those aged 20 and over responded that they reduced drinking.
The study was conducted by the research team of the National Assembly Futures Institute last year, and was based on the responses related to COVID-19 in the “Survey of Happiness of the Korean People” conducted on 14,000 males and females aged 15 and over from all around the country.
Dr. Heo stated that “at an international level, the numbers suggest that Koreans are relatively less miserable, but the results still pointed to the serious impact from COVID-19 that hit vulnerable groups the hardest. Also, there is concern regarding potential greater socioeconomic inequality,” and advised that “there should be evidence-based policies for not only infectious disease prevention and control, but also regarding socioeconomic inequalities that stem from COVID-19.”