[News Focus] Korea, 30th out of 36 OECD members in terms of female employment



SEJONG – The market for hiring women has been relatively difficult in South Korea, compared to Western countries. This can also be seen in the global comparison data.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Korea posted an employment rate of 56.7% for women in the working-age population aged 15 to 64 in 2020.

Korea ranked 30th out of 36 OECD members for female employment rate. Of the 37 members in total, last year’s figure for Mexico has yet to be compiled.

Korea lags far behind its Asia-Pacific neighbors: 72.2% were reported in New Zealand, 70.7% in Japan and 68.6% in Australia.

Some emerging economies also overtook Korea, most notably Lithuania with 71 percent of the female employment rate, Estonia with 71 percent, Latvia with 70.2 percent and Slovenia with 67.8 percent.

Among those ranking above Korea were the Czech Republic (67.1%), Hungary (62.4%), Slovakia (61.6%) and Poland (61.5%).

Iceland topped the list last year with 77.8%, followed by Switzerland at 75.9%, the Netherlands at 73.9%, Sweden at 73.5%, Germany at 72.9% and Norway at 72.7%.

Among English-speaking countries, a figure of 72.1 percent was observed for the United Kingdom, 66.8 percent in Canada, 62.4 percent in Ireland and 62.2 percent in the United States.

In contrast, Korea ranked 17th in the male employment rate among the 36 OECD members (excluding Mexico out of the 37 total) with 74.8% in 2020.

This showed an apparent disparity in hiring conditions between men and women across the nation. The situation continued before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world.

However, Korea did not reach male employment figures in Japan (No. 2 with 83.9%), New Zealand (No. 5 with 81.5%), Czech Republic (No. 6 with 81.4%) and in the United Kingdom (No. 8 with 79.1%).

Among the top 10 were Switzerland (No. 1 with 83.9%), Iceland, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Denmark.

According to the Supplementary Index III for Employment, held by Statistics Korea, the de facto unemployment rate – unemployed plus underemployed – for both men and women was 13.5% in May.

Index III refers to the long-term unemployment rate, which reflects “underemployment” as well as unemployment. Those considered unemployed include temporary employees who work less than 36 hours per week and wish to work longer hours, as well as seasonal workers who are unemployed part of the year.

This indicates that 4.12 million Koreans out of an economically active population of 30.5 million were de facto unemployed.

This contrasts with the country’s official unemployment rate of 3.7% and the count of the unemployed, 1.14 million, released by the government.

Women have also been hit harder by the pandemic than their male counterparts in terms of job security, government work-related data suggests.

According to Korea’s Employment Information Service, unemployment benefit payments have increased faster among women than men in most cities and provinces of the country.

In Seoul, the number of men receiving unemployment benefits recorded 64,339 in April 2021, up 62.3% from 39,633 in December 2019. The first case of COVID-19 was reported here in January 2020.

In contrast, the increase amounted to 88.2% for women over the same period, with the number of beneficiaries rising from 40,851 women to 76,915 women.

The corresponding figures were 62.4 percent among men versus 78.1 percent among women in Gyeonggi Province, and 68.4 percent among men versus 96.6 percent among women in Sejong.

By Kim Yon-se ([email protected])



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