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Current Status of Women’s Rights II: Too Busy with Childcare…``Thinking about Retirement Everyday``

Current Status of Women’s Rights II: Too Busy with Childcare…``Thinking about Retirement Everyday``

Posted July. 02, 2001 19:58,   


``I could was able to manage life before I had a second child. After having a second child, there was no life.`` Ms. Kim (38, female), a chief director at the A Airline, is a working-wife who has an 8-year old a 3-year old child. Although she wants to be evaluated as a capable person in her company and continue to work, Kim expressed her thought saying that ``since I gave birth to a second child, I think about retirement everyday.`` Kim sends her first child to school and the second child to a childcare center since she cannot receive help either from her parents or from her family-in-law because both families do not live in a close proximity. However, Kim often cannot leave the office when she has to pick her second child from a childcare center. Sometimes, her oldest child, who is the first year elementary school student, brings his brother back to home and waits for his parents.

- Sharp decline of the economic activities of women between 20-35 years old: `The compatibility between work and family` is what most career women wishes for. However, the reality is tough. Many women live with the burden of childbirth and childcare, like walking on a tightrope.

According to a social statistical research announced by the National Statistical Office in May, the burden of childcare (29.3 percent) was identified as the first element of obstacle for women’s employment. Social prejudice, discriminatory practice and system ranked the second element (28.2 percent).

How deeply childbirth and childcare affect Korean women can be measured through the comparison with the economic activities of women in other countries by age. In case of Korea, `M curve` phenomenon, which indicates the sharp decline of the economic activities between 20-35 years old, is notable. This is the time upon which childbirth and childcare activities are concentrated. Women often leave the job or they are disregarded by the work place due to the marriage and the burden of childcare. Of course, many women voluntarily choose to stay home in accordance with their sense of value of self-realization.

- Korea’s related laws are on the level of the developed countries: Laws that guarantee the social support for the maternity protection and childcare are constitutional law (maternity protection), Sexual Equality Employment Act (temporary retirement for childcare, child care center in the work place), childcare law for infants and children (childcare system), the government official law (temporary retirement for childcare, temporary retirement for family care), and the Labor Standard Act (temporary retirement for childbirth, time for breastfeeding, menstrual leave). Female government officials’ vacation for childbirth, vacation for health, vacation for the examination during pregnancy, and the time for childcare are guaranteed in the regulations of the government officials. If maternity protection law, which was recently passed by the Environment-Labor Committee of the National Assembly, is carried out, women will be able to receive a portion of the wage during the temporary retirement for childcare.

- Difficult in reality: Kim Ellim, the chief researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI), said that ``there is no accurate research statistics on the reality of the law-observance. In case of local government officials, most women cannot fully utilize the 60 days of temporary retirement for child care due to the shortage of alternative human resources.``

An estimated number of childcare center and day care center is 20,000 as of June last year. Although childcare centers nationwide have mushroomed due to the childcare law for infants and children, they are not of much practical help for the working women.

According to the `Analysis on the Present Condition of the Childcare Service & the Research on the Establishment of the Comprehensive Measures`, published by the Korea Institute For Health & Social Affairs, 51.8 percent of the users of the childcare center as well as day care center were full-time housewives. Although companies with more than 300 employees are required to have childcare facilities within the company, only 222 companies were observing it until last year.

Working women in the dual-income family rarely use the temporary retirement for childcare. According to the Ministry of Labor, only 401 companies (0.1 percent of the 317,266 companies with more than five employees) asked for the incentive wage for the temporary retirement for childcare (150,000 won per person, 200,000 won per person this year). The number of women workers who are subject to the incentive wage for the temporary retirement for childcare was only 2226.

- Practical use of female human resources is the national competitiveness: Recently, more people are saying that women’s participation in the economic activities is necessary for the social development. According to the recent research produced by a worldly renowned consulting company McKinsey, the economic future of South Korea, which remains on the lowest level among the OECD countries, depends on how South Korea can increase the economic activity participation of women college graduate rate from 54 percent to 90 percent. According to the McKinsey, in order for South Korea to reach the level of the developed countries by 2010, a total number of 3 million jobs should be created in the field of service related business and the knowledge-information business for the next 10 years. Of 3 million jobs, 1.2 million professional jobs need to be filled by the college and post-college graduates. Under the current system of generating human resources, the new professional jobs cannot be filled even if all men are supplemented for these jobs. What the McKinsey says is that women college graduate need to fill these jobs.

- Urgent need for the social support: Ji Eun-Hee, the representative of the Women Organizations Association, said that ``the defeat of South Korea, in which educated women are hoarded up while only men are employed, seems apparent when it competes with the developed countries, in which all the possible human resources are effectively used.`` Jung Kang-Ja, the representative of the Korean Women Minwoohoi (Korean Womenlink), said, ``the social support for the maternity protection or the working women is not simply the issue of women. The government should make great effort in order for the reformed maternity protection related laws to become effective in reality, and should expand the social support for the expenses concerning the laws.``

Soh Young-A sya@donga.com