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[Opinion] The Economics of Marriage

Posted October. 08, 2009 09:07,   


Older singles might have been scolded by relatives over Korea`s Chuseok (Thanksgiving) holidays. It is hard to listen to the admonition of the aged. Youths, however, might realize that their older relatives were right when they get older. Koreans are not the only people who argue that marriage is a good way to save more money. Ohio State economics professor Jay Zagorsky says married baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 have raised their assets 16 percent per year, while those who live alone due to divorce, death of a spouse, separation or celibacy have been only half as successful. If both husband and wife work, their combined income is larger than that of a single person. If one is unemployed, his or her spouse can pick up the slack.

In the United States, the poverty rate for single-parent families is five times higher than that of two-parent ones. Korea might be no different. Needless to say, poverty will soar if single-parent families are headed by mothers. A Newsweek magazine report says the best way to beat poverty is to help women find jobs by establishing more nurseries, giving them more job training opportunities, and creating more part-time jobs. In addition to helping women, the measures can also narrow the gap between the haves and have nots.

The Labor Ministry recently conducted a survey on the living conditions of unemployed people whose jobless benefits expired. A fourth of them said unemployment benefits had been their sole source of income. Forty percent said their living conditions worsened after their benefits expired. Considering that 53.4 percent of them failed to find jobs after their benefit period ended, their predicament is understandable. Half said other family members earned wages, but this condition might be better than their more desperate counterparts. Accordingly, the government needs to require those receiving unemployment benefits to take vocational training or devise better job placement strategies.

U.S. President Barack Obama is a progressive leader but also stresses personal responsibility, which is considered a right-wing value. He suggested three goals for American youths: studying, finding a job, and marriage. He said babies should come after the three goals are met. The order of the three holds significant meaning. Only when a person is able to work can he or she find a decent job. Marriage before employment and having children outside of marriage are both irresponsible.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)