The Korea Herald


More women in Korea's workforce yet wage gap widening: data

Women earn 65 percent compared to men per month on average

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : Sept. 6, 2023 - 15:08

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Women are more economically active in South Korea's workforce than ever. The employment-to-population ratio for women aged 15 to 64 here hit an all-time high of 60 percent last year. However, the wage gap between women and men is widening, data showed Wednesday, as women still earn significantly less than men on average.

It is the first time that this figure entered the 60 percent range since the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family started compiling data in 1997. The percentage of women who are employed was 52.7 percent in 2010.

The percentage of female workers earning less than two-thirds of the median monthly wage, classifying them as low-wage workers, stood at 22.8 percent. This is nearly double the rate for male low-wage workers at 11.8 percent of the male workforce. The percentage of low-wage workers has dropped continuously for both genders, from 16.2 percent for men and 39.8 percent for women in 2010, down 4.4 percentage points and 17.0 percentage points, respectively, over 12 years.

The gender wage gap has improved compared to what it was in 2010, but the average hourly wage of female workers was 18,113 won ($13.58), which is only 70 percent of men's hourly wage -- 25,886 won. The average monthly salary of female workers is 2.68 million won, which is only 65 percent of the 4.13 million won men earn on average per month.

The proportion of women employed in companies with more than 300 employees -- a threshold for large corporations, which traditionally have greater stability, higher wages, more benefits and greater job security in Korea -- was 8.4 percent, up 2.8 percentage points from 2010, implying that more women are in relatively higher-paying, stable positions than 12 years ago. The percentage of men employed in large companies also rose 2.4 percentage points to 12.4 percent.

Further, while the age at which people marry has risen for both men and women, the percentage of men participating in housework and child care has also grown.

Last year, the total number of first marriages in Korea was 148,000, down 0.6 percent from 2021. The average age at which people get married for the first time was 33.7 for men and 31.3 for women, up 0.3 years and 0.2 years, respectively, from 2021. Fewer people believe that housework is the duty of women alone as only 23.7 percent of women and 18.2 percent of men answered that women should be in charge of housework, down 1.4 percentage point and 2.9 percent point, respectively, from two years ago.

The number of male workers who used parental leave in 2022 was 38,000, up 1.7 times the 22,000 who did in 2019, and the number is on a continuous increase. However, women still accounted for 71.1 percent of those on parental leave in 2022, indicating that men taking such leave is not as common. Korea plans to extend parental leave from 12 to 18 months for full-time, dual-income couples starting next year, on the condition that both parents take leave for more than three months each.