Korea’s fertility rate dropped to record lows in 2005, prompting the government to take action by drawing up a master plan to deal with the low fertility rate and aging population. However, despite continued efforts, the fertility rate has stalled at 1.2 children since 2010, with expectations of an unprecedented low of 1.04 in 2017. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate for women has stood at the 60% range for the past decade, which is lower than in other major countries. Low fertility and labor force participation rates seems to be related to women avoiding having children and taking career breaks due to the poor accessibility to the work-family balance policy and the heavy burden of housework and child rearing. Accordingly, using the Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women & Families (KLoWF) data, this study conducted an empirical analysis on the effects of the work-family balance policy and sharing of the housework with a spouse on the fertility rate and women’s labor force participation rate. The results were then applied in presenting policy suggestions to enhance the balance between work and family and encouraging more men to become active in the home. Firstly, the analysis found that maternity and parental leave respectively increase birth intentions and women’s desire to participate in the labor market. This implies that as much as maternity leave affects women’s decision to have children, parental leave is also critical to them in continuing their careers.
However, under the current system, only those with employment insurance are eligible for paid maternity and parental leave. In other words, this means that the current system cannot be extended without increasing the number of insured workers. Accordingly, more workers should be encouraged to voluntarily join the employment insurance system in order to reduce blind spots. And in doing so, it is important to promote the fact that the system is a primary social safety net that provides income security in case of unemployment, and is needed to enhance vocational abilities in response to changing labor market conditions. In cases where the employer fails to report the status of employees ―and employees lose their eligibility to receive paid maternity leave―the employee has the right to receive the pay through the insurance eligibility check system. Indeed, such information need to be promoted broadly and actively. Furthermore, more efforts must be made for labor support, such as that provided by the Seoul Working Mothers Support Center which provides information on employment insurance benefits including maternity and parental leave and offers counselling and advice for difficulties in using the benefits. A more fundamental way to resolve the blind spot issue is to correct the two-track imposition and collection mechanism in the employment insurance system. Under the current mechanism, Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service imposes the insurance pay while the National Health Insurance Service collects the pay for employment insurance as well as other forms of social insurance. However, the National Tax Service (NTS) would be more appropriate in terms of a more convenient collection system and effective enforcement through an efficient link between the NTS’ income tax data and employment insurance data and integration of the reporting of tax income and payment. Insurance premiums can be imposed by linking the NTS’ statements for daily-worker wages with the Ministry of Employment and Labor’s (MOEL) work conformation reports. However, realistically speaking, this ex-post application is hardly possible for small-sized firms and non-regular workers as their status changes so often. Not only that, when reporting their income, employers have a strong incentive to report employees’ wages as an expense in order to reduce their taxes, but little incentive to report to employment insurance. This is because employers are rarely penalized when they fail to report insurance status or total wages, and there are no penalties if the employer pays the employment insurance pay in full. In addition, it is assumed that there are a large number of women who are insured but have to leave their jobs because their employers do not grant them maternity leave. The MOEL initiated a smart labor inspection in June 2016 which, in connection with the National Health Insurance Service's pregnancy and childbirth database, identifies workplaces with pregnant employees and monitors those suspected of withholding maternity leave, discouraging its use or wrongfully terminating employees for reasons including pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing. So far, about 55,000 women workers were found to have left their jobs during pregnancy while only a few workplaces were inspected and found to be in violation of the law. Accordingly, the smart labor inspection needs to be broadened by connecting the data from employment and health insurance, which would create conditions that better enable access to maternity and parental leave. Meanwhile, of the total housework hours by a married couple, it was found that the proportion of the husband’s working hours was in positive relation to the wife’s desire to work but had nothing to with the desire to have children. Considering the fact that the data used in this study defines housework as labor required solely to maintain a household, except that for care, it is possible that a couple could have additional children only when the proportion of the husband’s participation in child rearing increases. So, in order to increase husbands’ housework hours, they must be encouraged to take advantage of their parental leave. Men who take leave are more likely to engage in longer hours of housework which implies that it is useful in dismantling the traditional gender role beliefs. In Korea, fathers who take a parental leave after mother are given a bonus for the first three months; called parental leave bonus for fathers. This bonus, however, is not awarded to those whose spouses are not receiving employment insurance or granted maternity leave. The majority of women who are of childbearing age are institutionally and substantially in the blind spot for parental leave. As such, if encouraging men to take parental leave is the underlying goal of the bonus for fathers, it would be more effective for the bonus to be given to men actually taking parental leave, regardless of mother’s use of parental leave. According to a survey on men with parental-leave experience, the biggest concern was a decline in wages. If this is considered together with a general tendency of men to take shorter parental leave than women, another measure worth considering would be to heighten the income replacement ratio of shorter parental leave by men. This could help enhance income security, hence, more men would be encouraged to take parental leave. Such adjustments to the period and income replacement ratio are worth considering since Korea’s income replacement ratio is in the lower range among OECD members while the leave period for men is the longest. Women’s sustainability in part-time jobs was found to decrease in both voluntary and involuntary cases. However, their desire to have children increases when the part-time work is voluntary. This helps to assume that an increase in voluntary part-time jobs will increase the fertility rate. To enhance employees’ satisfaction with and engagement in part-time work, the payroll and benefits should be given in proportion to the hours worked. This means that the system to reduce working hours for parents during child nurturing period must be settled fully. For better access to the system, companies and management must make the effort by adjusting critical working hours and work exchange program schedules so that employees are able to collaborate with each other seamlessly. Thus, in order to educate companies on adjusting work schedules and distributing performance gains, etc., they should be provided with the know-how to using replacement workers for example allowing existing employees to take charge of professional tasks while replacement workers engage in other tasks. There are, however, complaints from companies that maternity and parental leave and reduced working hours are difficult to implement since the programs place a huge burden on the remaining employees, and replacement workers are difficult to find; such complaints may be partly due to a poor understanding of support programs. Therefore, it is also necessary to promote the programs more actively to alleviate concerns relating to the work-family balance policy. This study also found that support from grandparents has a positive impact on women’s desire to have children but has nothing to do with continuing economic activities. This is probably because it is relatively easy to find someone who can do the housework but difficult to find an institution or person who can provide reliable child care services. To improve the quality of child care, the process of training care teachers must be completely reformed. The current methods of child protection are mostly focused on detecting child abuse cases based on parents’ reporting or through CCTV and imposing punishments. However, the focus must shift to verifying and advancing the quality of pre-service teachers so that all forms of abuse are stopped at the initial stages by training teachers. At present, the child care teacher certificate can be attained by anyone who completes the curriculum at university or child care education centers. But, proficiency in child care through interactions with infants and toddlers, relationships with parents and management of child care programs was found to be high among those who majored in child care and childhood education. Meanwhile, the level of proficiency was similar between high school graduates and university graduates who majored in different subjects. In this regard, training systems should be modified into a subject-focused system at universities in order to strengthen the expertise of teachers while non-university institutions should be transformed into ones that provide continuing professional education and fosters assistant workers, instead of training teachers. Lastly, women’s desire to continue to participate in the labor force was found to decrease in line with plans for children while their desire to have children increased when husbands are against their working. Such findings are due to the belief that it is not realistic for women to maintain both work and rear children. It is hoped that more will have a better understanding of the fact that women’s participation in the labor market and having children at the same time is possible only when the access to work-family balance policies is made easier and more satisfactory.
일-가정 양립정책의 효과성과 정책적 시사점(The effects of work-family balance policies in Korea and policy implications)
세종 : 한국개발연구원
|Series Title; No||정책연구시리즈 / 2017-06|
|Subject Country||South Korea(Asia and Pacific)|
|Subject||Social Development < Population
Social Development < Education
Social Development < Gender