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Female economic activity at lowest point in 10 years

The participation of Korean women in economic activity is falling behind as more women quit their jobs to raise children.

The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs said Sunday that the female economic activity rate was 49.5 percent last year, the lowest in 10 years.

It was the first time over the past decade that the figure fell below 50 percent.

According to the institute, the number of economically active women, which had been on the rise, started to decrease in 2008 when the global financial crisis hit.

In 2009, about 10.08 million women were engaged in economic activities, down from 10.14 million in 2008.

While 30-something men made up the largest portion of the male labor force, the number of female workers in their 30s was smaller than those in their 20s and 40s.

The recent decline reflects the fact that no progress has been made in supporting married women, said Yeom Ji-hye, a researcher at the institute.

The wage gap between genders also showed no signs of narrowing.

The female wages in Korea were 63.9 percent of men’s wages, one of the lowest among OECD nations.

“Since the 2008 economic crisis, many female workers were relegated to become temporary or part-time workers. The wage gap also started to widen more,” Yeom said.

“The wage difference is larger than those in advanced countries as the career break of married female workers affects their reemployment or promotion,” she said.

As many highly-educated women seek fewer available jobs, the competition becomes fierce while their wages get lower, Yeom added.

“Female workers are not properly evaluated in the labor market, making many of them abandon their jobs. As much as their education level becomes higher, the labor policy and system should secure gender equality in the market.”

By Lee Ji-yoon (
Korea Herald daum