South Korea urged to support women’s return to workforce

More must be done to inncrease female labour force participation, which is crucial to boost economic growth, says the IMF.
By: | September 29, 2022

With South Korea’s rapid ageing and low birth rates expected to lower the nation’s workforce, it is critical for the country to have a higher female labour force participation rate, highlighted Gita Gopinath, IMF First Deputy Managing Director at the Korea Gender Equality Forum.

“Despite improvements over the last decade, Korea has some of the largest labour market gender gaps among OECD countries, both in terms of earnings and labour force participation,” she noted.

The gender pay gap in South Korea is almost 20 percentage points higher in South Korea than the OECD average, at 32% in 2020. Only 16% of managerial roles in South Korea are held by women, compared to 32% in other OECD countries in 2017. 

IMF found that if the country’s female labour force participation rose to match its male labour force participation rate by 2035, real GDP would grow by 7%. 

READ: Young people dropping off South Korea’s permanent workforce

Although women’s labour force participation rate increased from 53 to 60% between 2001 and 2021, there is still a gender labour participation gap of 18 percentage points, compared to a gap of 15 percentage points among OECD countries, highlighted Gopinath. 

To that end, IMF advises that measures like strengthening the quality and affordability of childcare services, promoting shared parental leave, and broader measures to improve work-life balance, including a reduction in working hours, could be rolled out to tackle this issue.