South Korea’s fertility rate is expected to hit a record breaking 0.96 births per woman this year. This is due to various reasons including high unemployment rate and increasing cost of living, but fundamentally it is due to high costs of marriage and birth. In a country influenced by Confucianism, women in South Korea are mostly in charge of most (if not all) household chores and childcare, while men are in charge of providing income for the family.

This long-going uneven distribution of household labor can also be seen in the labor market, where care workers continuously receive low wages compared to other white collar workers and blue collar workers. According to research, illegal discrimination of sex segregation and employment instability were core reasons for total wage differentials, and low human capital was also common among care workers. However, low human capital is due to the limit of measuring the output of care work due to its nature.

Undervaluing of care work has led to women spending more time in unpaid household labor in families, which is a crucial part of family formation. According to research, South Korean men work an average of +7 hours of labor every day, while South Korean women spend the same amount of time in household labor. Korea’s ratio of women’s time spent for household labor to men’s is more than double, the highest compared to France, Spain, UK, the Netherlands, USA, Germany, Norway and Denmark. Men’s unpaid work time increases in the societies with equal gender ideology and norm, reduced paid labor time and high employment level of married women while women’s unpaid work time increases in the societies with reduced total working time and long parental leave. Therefore, in order to increase men’s household labor time, national policies must reduce total working time and reform the unequal gender ideology present in the society.



Kim, Young Mi. 2014. “A Comparative Study on the Relation between Welfare State Policy and the Unpaid Work Time by Gender.” Korea Social Policy Review 21(1): 143-177.

Lee, Ju Hwan and Ja Young Yoon. 2015. “Wage Penalty and Decomposition of Care Employment.” Korean Journal of Social Welfare Studies 46(4): 33-57.

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