South Korea sees shift in parental leave trends

Despite a slight decline in men taking paternity leave, women still make up 72% of parental leave takers in 2023 in South Korea.
By: | February 27, 2024

In 2023, South Korea saw a 3.9% drop in the utilisation of parental leave among its citizens, according to a Ministry of Employment and Labour report. However, there was a rise in the adoption of flexible work arrangements, reflecting changing trends in family care policies and workforce dynamics.

The total number of individuals opting for maternal or paternal leave last year amounted 126,008, down from 5,076 from the previous year. This decline is partly attributed to an 8.1% decrease in newborns. Women comprised 72% of leave takers, with men at 28%. However, the percentage of men taking paternity leave experienced a slight decline from 28.9% in 2022, despite a steady increase over recent years.

The report highlighted that 67% of parental leave was taken while the child was under one year old, with women typically taking 9.5 months off and men taking 7.5 months on average for parental care.

Contrastingly, there has been a significant uptick in utilising the reduced work hours programme. In 2023, 23,188 parents availed themselves of this option, marking a 19.1% increase from the previous year. This programme allows employees to work for 15-30 hours per week, enabling them to allocate more time for childcare responsibilities.

On average, parents utilising the reduced work hours system decreased their weekly work hours by 12.4 hours, indicating a preference for flexible work schedules.

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In response to evolving family care needs, the Ministry of Employment and Labour has initiated policy revisions to enhance support for parental leave and flexible work arrangements. These revisions include extending parental leave entitlement to up to one year and six months, an increase from the existing one-year provision. Additionally, the maximum period for utilising the reduced work hours system will be extended to three years, up from the current two-year limit, reported The Korea Herald.