The number of male workers taking paternity leave soared nearly 30 percent last year, but their rate still came far behind that of their female counterparts, government data showed Monday.
According to the data compiled by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the number of male employees getting paternity leave in
2012 came to 1,790, up 27.6 percent from a year earlier.
Since the measure was introduced in 1987, the number of fathers applying for the time off has been on a steady rise, with only two fathers taking the leave in 2001, 104 in 2003, 208 in 2005, 310 in 2007, 502 in 2009 and 1,402 in 2011, the data showed. The increase has been attributed to the government's measures to encourage paternity leave, including turning the unpaid leave into paid leave in 2001 and extending the age limit for the children in 2008, according to the labor ministry.
The rate of the male workers who take parental leave, however, fell far behind compared to that of their female counterparts, data showed, indicating the practice has yet to take hold in the country. Males accounted for 2.8 percent of the total workers who used the leave in 2012, which is the largest figure so far.
New fathers and mothers are both eligible for between one month and one year of paid time off, receiving up to 40 percent of their monthly income while on leave with the upper limit of 1 million won (US$930.7).
Last year, a total of 64,069 working parents took the time off to take care of their children, and the government paid 357.8 billion won to the workers on leave and 8 billion won to their replacements, the ministry said.
"Given that Sweden saw over 20 percent of its male employers taking the leave as of 2007, we still have a long way to go," said a ministry official. "Helping parents balance their work and family affairs is key to resolving problems arising from the country's low birthrates. The government devises diverse measures to create environments where more fathers take the leave more freely."
South Korea's birthrate, or the average number of children born to each woman in her lifetime, stood at around 1.24 in 2011. This is much lower than the average birthrate of 1.71 tallied for members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (Yonhap News)