It is generally believed that the medical profession in Korea is an well-paid field along with legal profession. In this vein, the nursing is regarded one of well-paid profession. The actual data, however, reveals that nurses belong to low income bracket. We carefully compare the nurse's earnings with those of other professions. We selected 58 professions, which are similar in vocational characteristics and education background to nurses and conduct a regression analysis to estimate earning functions. Using the estimated coefficients, we project an optimum salary level for nurse, and compare it with the actual salary level. The estimated results show that the nurses are underpaid : their actual salary is less than the optimum level. We provide several explanations for this phenomenon : a tradition based on Confucian value, wage discrimination for women, and wage inequality among hospitals. Undercompensation will result either ratard professional development, or block the motivation for high quality of nursing care. If the current underpaying situation is not improved, a shortage of nurses along with an noticeable decline in the quality of medical services are expected. Therefore an adequate compensation for nurses must be properly assessed and addresed not only be health care authorities but also by legislators. Further research is needed to explain why there is such as wide salary inequality among nurses, and to find what cause it.
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