Korea's Gender Equality Record Is a Disgrace

      October 29, 2013 13:19

      Korea ranked 111th out of 136 countries in this year's World Economic Forum rankings for gender equality, down another three notches from an already dismal 108th last year.

      That puts it on a par with hardline Islamic countries like the United Arab Emirates (109th), Bahrain (112th) and Qatar (115th), and many fathoms lower than the Philippines (fifth) and Lesotho (16th), whose economies are far smaller.

      Korea ranked 120th in terms of the income gap between men and women in similar areas of work, 108th when it comes to the average wage earned by women, 105th in terms of women attaining managerial positions, 90th in terms of the number of women in technical or professional jobs, 87th when it comes to the number of women in work and 79th in the number of high-ranking female public servants.

      This is a disgraceful record for a country that is part of the G20 world economies.

      In reality, the economic participation rate of women in Korea stood at only 49.7 percent as of 2012 compared to 73.3 percent for men. The average wage of female staff in companies with five or more workers was W1.96 million, only 68 percent of what their male counterparts make (US$1=W1,061).

      Among 570 high-level government positions, including ministers, vice ministers and directors, only 30 are filled by women. And women account for a paltry 0.6 percent of executives in state-run companies. In the nation’s top 100 private companies, the rate is less than two percent.

      In advanced countries, more women are part of the workforce because they are hired based on their skills without bias against their gender. Korea's economic growth depends on how many more women are allowed to enter the workforce. Closing the gender gap and boosting female participation in politics, are not just a matter of protecting women's rights but an indispensable task for further national growth.

      Consecutive administrations have vowed to boost the role of women in society and have poured in trillions of won into it, but instead of getting better things have gotten worse, with Korea slipping inexorably in the rankings from 92nd in 2006 to 107th in 2011.

      This means that existing policies are useless. The time has come to come up with truly substantial measures promoting greater female participation in the workforce backed by society-wide support.

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