For Every Birth, a Korean Career Dies

pregnant warrior with one knee up(Source: Bonbon; CC BY 2.0)

Not technically Korean sorry, but it seemed an apt response to the following graph:


(Source: OECD)

Actually I’m surprised that that figure for Korea is so high, regularly hearing that Korea has the lowest rate in the OECD, and which given the high numbers of Koreans in tertiary education and the low wages in the types of jobs open to young women (and men), both of which will only be exacerbated by the current financial crisis, it may still well be if the age range is extended from 25-54 to 15-64. Regardless, it’s very low, and while I’ve written a great deal on the blog over the last two years as to the reasons why (see here and here for starters), a picture really does say a thousand words.

Or more graphs to be precise, the next one below clearly showing Korea’s sharp “M-shaped curve” of women’s labor force participation, the result of women entering the labor force after finishing their schooling, then leaving in droves as they find it impossible to juggle children and work, then returning gradually once the children reach school age, finally to leave again as they retire. This is in contrast to the “upside-down U-curve”  of – let’s face it – more enlightened countries (at least when it comes to the position of women), and the “n-curve” for men, which is usefully included as a comparison:

womens-labor-force-participation-rate-by-age-bracket-2002-south-korea-etc(Source: Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office)

Unfortunately I couldn’t find an online graph showing how Korea’s women’s labor force participation rate has changed over time, but I do have the figures below from page 24 of Working Korea 2007 published by the Korea Labor & Society Institute, which you can compare to the rates of some other countries through these graphs that I could find, luckily for the same age range of 15-64:

  • 1980: 38.2%
  • 1980-84: 38.6%
  • 1985-89: 40.0%
  • 1990-94: 40.%
  • 1995-99: 41.5%
the-rise-in-female-labor-force-participation-as-a-percentage-of-all-working-women-graphs(Source: Pages 36 & 37, Globalization, Uncertainty and Women’s Careers: An International Comparison
edited by Hans-Peter Blossfeld, Heather Anne Hofmeister, 2006)

In this case, Korea’s figures most resemble Mexico’s I guess. For the sake of future reference, here are some more recent, albeit depressingly similar figures:

  • 2005: 41.7%
  • 2006: 41.9%

Being so…er…ripe for it, then ideally this or a similar ad will also appear in Korea sometime soon; either way, I’m sorry if in the past I’ve sounded a little like a stuck record, so regularly lamenting the low position of women in Korea and all, but hopefully all of the above has provided a stark demonstration as to why I have the focus on the blog that I do!

7 thoughts on “For Every Birth, a Korean Career Dies

  1. it´s really a shame i think i would like that both will get the stability in economics, but i feel shame about the work of my country i am a worker woman , but is true is difficult to fit in a job because pregnancy an all the stuff of the men “world” some times is not fare never the less i think women can make it with a little more effort and they will be where they deserve to be. is difficult and maybe in some places we couldn´t be but give it a try.


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