March 22, 2016 12:16
Full-time housewives are a dwindling force in Korea as a growing number of young and middle-aged women enter the workforce to help make ends meet.
According to Statistics Korea, the number of full-time housewives stood at 7.08 million last year, a decline of around 60,000 from 2014.
In 2000, when the government started tallying statistics, there were still 6.38 million housewives, and their numbers even rose to a peak of 7.29 million in 2013. Now 43.9 percent of couples both earn an income.
Dwindling numbers of full-time housewives are a common trend in advanced countries as women and men become more equal. Government officials here say state efforts to help women find jobs again after having children are also a factor.
The so-called economic participation rate of married women between the ages of 25 and 54 stood at less than 50 percent in the early 1990s but rose to 59.6 percent last year.
But a closer look at the statistics shows that married women usually opt to enter the workforce not to realize their potential but out of dire necessity, as demonstrated by the fact that more older couples than younger ones are double-income earners.
"There is a strong tendency among housewives in their 40s and 50s to find jobs to help make ends meet when they realize that they haven't saved enough money near retirement," said Lee Geun-tae at LG Economic Research Institute.
Statistics may show that more married women are finding jobs, but employment among women aged 15 to 64 stood at just 55.7 percent last year, below the OECD average of 58 percent.
"Many married women in their 40s and 50s only find minimum-wage jobs," said Joo Won at the Hyundai Research Institute. "The government needs to boost not just the quantity of jobs for women but their quality."
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