Recent statistics show that more South Korean women drop out of the labor force in their thirties than their counterparts in other OECD countries. Seoul’s female employment rate exhibits an “M” shape as opposed to a U-shape commonly found in major advanced countries.
According to the Korea Institute of Economic Research on Thursday, 57.8% of South Korean women were employed in 2019, ranking 31st among 37 OECD countries, while it was ranked 33rd in participation rate. of women in the labor market in the same year, which amounted to 60.0%. . This means that South Korea has one of the lowest rates of women willing to take up employment, let alone employed women.
Employment rates by age group reveal that many South Korean women leave the workforce in their 30s to raise children, struggling to balance work and family. The labor force participation rate for women in South Korea is in the shape of an “M”. It peaks at 71.1% for women aged 25-29 before dropping dramatically when they reach their thirties, to 64.6% for women aged 30-34 and 59.9 % for women aged 35-39. It then resumes with 62.7% of women aged 40 to 44 and 67.4% of women aged 45 to 49 participating in the labor force. It drops again for women aged 50 to 54.
On the other hand, the female employment rates of five advanced countries, namely the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France, exhibit a “U” shape where the numbers increase until the women reach their forties. The difference between the rate in South Korea and the average rate of the five countries is only 5.9 percentage points for women aged 25-29, but the gap is gradually widening to 16.6 points percentage between the ages of 35 and 39 before decreasing for women in their forties. .
The difference was largest among women with children under 15 at 57.0% versus 72.2%. In a 2020 survey of economically inactive women conducted by Statistics Korea, 65.0% of respondents said they felt pressure to raise children and do housework.
The Korea Institute of Economic Research said South Korea lacks a flexible labor market and support for women compared to G5 countries where 14.9% of employed women work part-time, compared to 8 .9% in Seoul. The figure reaches 17.2% in the UK and Japan. South Korea also spends less (0.4% of all spending) than the five countries (1.5% on average) to provide support for working mothers, including paid maternity leave, subsidies and tax advantages.
“To help women stay in the labor market, more support should be provided, such as increasing the number of daycare centers and promoting parental leave,” said Chu Gwang-ho of the Korea Institute of Economic Research. . “It is also important to make the labor market more flexible, which will help create more part-time jobs.”