Hands-off Dads Linked to Korea's Low Birthrate

  • By Kim Eun-gyeong

    May 03, 2022 12:52

    One reason for Korea's low birthrate may be the refusal of men to take part in childrearing and domestic chores.

    Korea is one of the three countries with the lowest rate of male participation in childrearing along with Japan and Poland and has the lowest birthrate, according to a study by a U.S. research team for the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    The researchers studied the relationship between the sharing of childrearing duties, female participation in the workforce and birthrates in 40 member nations of the OECD.

    The study found that countries with active female participation in the workforce in fact saw rising birthrates. "The economics of fertility has entered a new era," it says. "In high-income countries, the income-fertility relationship has flattened and in some cases reversed, and the cross-country relationship between women's labor force participation and fertility is now positive."

    The researchers also found that education levels are unrelated to women's desires to have children.

    But countries with low male participation in childrearing tended to have low birthrates. Countries with high levels of male participation like Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the U.S. had birthrates of 1.8 children or more, but they tended to be lower than 1.5 children in countries with low male participation such as the Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, Poland and Slovakia.

    The report used data from 2005 to 2015, and Korea's birthrate has since declined even more to 0.81 child per woman last year, making it the first OECD member whose birthrate fell to less than one child.

    The researchers said there is a higher chance of women not having a second child in countries with low male participation in childrearing and it is important to harmonize women's career with a family to boost fertility. It cited four determining factors -- "family policy, cooperative fathers, favorable social norms and flexible labor markets."

    A Ministry of Gender Equality and Family survey in 2021 showed that a stay-at-home mother with a child aged 12 or younger spent 3.7 hours on childcare a day compared to just 1.2 hours for men. In double-income homes, women spent 1.4 hours a day on childcare, while men spent just 0.7 hour.

    Some 68.9 percent of single-income households said the mother usually takes care of most of the housework and childcare, while the figure was 60 percent even in double-income families.

    Park Sun-young at the Korean Women's Development Institute said, “Due to traditional attitudes toward childrearing and housework, women shoulder a bigger burden, which makes the option of having children less attractive." 

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