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Published : 2014-03-28 21:25
Updated : 2014-03-28 21:25

Encouraging women’s labor participation and preventing disruptions in their careers is not an act of compassion for the weaker gender but rather a key socio economic solution to some of the major problems faced by the world today.

This was the idea shared by Cho Yoon-sun, Minister of Gender Equality and Family, and Kathy Matsui, co-head of Goldman Sachs Macro Research in Asia.

The two spoke on Friday at a conference jointly held by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Goldman Sachs under the slogan of “Womenomics,” a term coined by Matsui back in 1999.

The Japanese strategist claimed that Japan, bogged down by an aging population, may boost its GDP by as much as 15 percent when the level of female employment rises to match that of males. The situation in Korea is similar, she noted. 
Minister of Gender Equality and Family Cho Yoon-sun (center) and Kathy Matsui (right), co-head of Goldman Sachs Macro Research in Asia, discuss ways to get more women in the labor market at the Womenomics Conference co-hosted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Goldman Sachs on Friday. (Asan Institute for Policy Studies)

“Korea has a vast pool of highly educated women, which suggests that the country’s public and private sectors have much to gain if only these women would join the workforce,” said Matsui.

“Also, various studies show that top-tier companies, regardless of their nationality and size, tend to have a high gender diversity, showing that a wide range of perspectives adds to the company’s profitability.”

Cho agreed about the crucial need to boost women’s work participation but also acknowledged some obstacles.

“Korea has excellent entry to the labor market when it comes to women in their 20s but the problem is the low retention and reemployment rates in the 30s age group,” the minister said.

Motivated by the Park Geun-hye administration’s three-year economic development plan, the Gender Equality Ministry is working to boost Korea’s female employment rate from 53.5 percent to 61.9 percent by the year 2017.

To achieve this goal, the government must adopt a wide, long-term view on the labor market, according to both Cho and Matsui.

“Contrary to common belief, it is not just external reasons such as childbirth and childcare which drive women to give up their careers, but also work dissatisfaction and the wage gap,” Matsui said.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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