Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Dualisation of Part-Time WorkThe Development of Labour Market Insiders and Outsiders$

Heidi Nicolaisen, Hanne Kavli, and Ragnhild Steen Jensen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781447348603

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447348603.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Chapter:
(p.289) 12 Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs
Source:
Dualisation of Part-Time Work
Author(s):

Min Young Song

Sophia Seung-yoon Lee

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447348603.003.0012

Abstract and Keywords

The Korean government has encouraged married women to take a part-time job since the 2010s. Under the strong influence of the labour market flexibility policy, however, most part-time jobs have been created on the basis of temporary contracts. Our analysis of the data from the 2015 Korea National Survey on Fertility, Family Health, and Welfare found that, on the whole, the hourly income of female part-timers with young children was lower than that of full-timers. This was because most part-time jobs were coupled with temporary employment of which wage levels was much lower than permanent employment. On the other hand, a sign of dualization was found within the Korean female part-timers; the gap in the average hourly income between those with a college degree and others was bigger among part-timers than among full-timers. We also found that the range of distribution of hourly income was much wider for part-time temporary workers than for full-time temporary workers.

Keywords:   Korean female part-time workers with young children, low employment protection, dualisation of employment conditions

Introduction

The dual structure of the labour market has become one of the most important social issues in South Korea (hereafter, Korea) following the increase in non-standard worker positions since the beginning of the millennium. Part-time employment is one such example of non-standard employment. Although less attention has been paid to part-time work than other types of non-standard employment, such as fixed-term employment and/ or temporary employment, the number of part-time employment positions has been on the rise in the Korean female labour market in recent years. The Korean government actually paved the way for this rise in part-time employment positions for women through a series of policies intended to help families deal individually with the increasing risks of unstable employment and poverty (Lee and Baek, 2014), on the one hand, and to enhance work–life balance for married women, on the other.

Many Korean scholars have expressed concern over the negative implications of the expansion of part-time employment on the quality of the female labour market. They argue that the current part-time employment policy reinforces the gender gap in the Korean labour market because – compared to full-timers – part-timers tend to have less opportunities for wage increases, promotion and career development (Lee, 2012; Kim and Lee, 2014; Shin, 2015). In order to identify whether the Korean part-time employment policy is reducing or reproducing gender inequality in the labour market, we may need empirical evidence. Several studies have examined the overall (p.290) characteristics of Korean female part-time employment (Ahn and Ban, 2007; Seong and Ahn, 2007; Jeong, 2010; Seong, 2014), but few have focused on working mothers in greater need of work–life balance because of their young children.

In this chapter, we will examine the characteristics of those who work part-time and have young children, including how much these workers are paid compared to full-time workers. Given that an individual’s decisions regarding the type of job they take, as well as the outcomes of such decisions, are greatly affected by a complex configuration of related policies (Emmenegger et al, 2012), we will take a look at the institutional structure of the Korean female labour market as well. Accordingly, this chapter will be organised as follows. First, we provide an overview of recent trends in Korean female non-standard employment and part-time employment by referring to the Korea Labour and Society Institute (KLSI) report. Then, we will describe the development of labour market flexibility policies, female employment policies and childcare policies, which have constructed the current institutional structure of the Korean female labour market from the 1990s to the present. Lastly, we will compare the past employment history, uptake rate of work–life balance policies, socio-economic status and current employment conditions of Korean female part-time workers with young children to those of full-time workers by analysing data from the 2015 Korea National Survey on Fertility, Family Health and Welfare.

Part-time employment and women in the South Korean dual labour market

Since 2001, the Korean government has been surveying the detailed characteristics1 of waged workers every August using an additional questionnaire attached to the National Survey of Economically Active Population.2 The questionnaire asks whether or not an employee belongs to the following types: fixed-term employment, short-term employment, part-time employment, dispatched employment, employment through outside contractors, employment of special forms, daily employment or domestic employment. Statistics Korea (2016) defines employees as non-standard workers only if they fit into at least one of those seven categories. The KLSI criticises this classification scheme, asserting that it underestimates the size of non-standard workers as it excludes long-term temporary workers (eg permanent temporary workers, casual workers and seasonal workers) (Kim, 2016).

(p.291) Given that aspects of temporary and daily work have long represented precarious workers according to the traditional criterion, we will describe the proportion and patterns of non-standard workers in Korea on the basis of the KLSI’s definition. As seen in Figure 12.1 (panel a), non-standard workers comprised 44.5% of all wage-earners in 2016.3 The share of total non-standard workers has been on a downward trend, whereas the share of part-time workers has grown from about 6% in 2001 to 12.7% in 2016. Figure 12.1 (panel b) additionally reports variations in the share of non-standard workers by sex. In 2016, the share of non-standard workers was higher among female wage-earners (54.5%) than among male wage-earners (36.7%). A more interesting characteristic is found in the association of marital status with employment status by gender. The share of non-standard workers was larger for the unmarried wage-earners (46.6%) than for the married wage-earners (32.7%) among men, whereas it was larger for the married wage-earners (59.5%) than for the unmarried wage-earners (43.0%) among women. We can see a similar tendency in the pattern of part-time employment, defined as working less than 36 hours per week. Under the general pattern indicating that part-timers were more frequently found among female wage-earners (20.6%) than among male wage-earners (6.5%) in 2016 in Korea, the share of part-timers was larger for the unmarried (10.5%) than for the married (4.8%) among men, whereas it was higher for the married (23.0%) than for the unmarried (15.0%) among women. This suggests that stable employment may be a resource used by men to get married or to maintain their marriage life, while marriage seems to act as a negative factor for women in maintaining their career.

Korean women’s unstable employment is closely associated with discontinuity in their employment during their childbearing years (Lee and Baek, 2014). Figure 12.2 traces Korean women’s age-specific employment rates back to the 1990s. A clear M-shape is found in the curve for 2016, as in the curve for 1991, indicating that a large number of Korean married women are still leaving their job after marriage or childbirth. The only change seen in the curves is a rightward movement of vertexes due to the increase in the age at first entry into the labour market (from 20–24 to 25–29)4 and the age at first marriage and childbirth (from 25–29 to 30–39). The persistent M-shape curves correspond to the government’s report that 48.2% of a total 9,053,000 Korean married women (including 1,812,000 unemployed women and 2,555,000 employed women) have experienced a career break due to marriage, childbirth or child-rearing (Statistics Korea, 2017: 11–12).

(p.292)

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobsAre female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.1: Proportion of non-standard and part-time workers among Korean wage-earners (%)

Source: Data from Statistics Korea, Survey of Economically Active Population and Kim (2016: 2, 4, 6, 10)

(p.293)

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.2: Korean women’s employment-to-population ratio, by age, 1991–2016

Source: ILOSTAT (no date)

As a result of this precarious status of employment and the ongoing tendency of career breaks, Korea has a much lower female employment rate compared to other post-industrial countries. The female employment-to-population ratio (15 and 64 years) was 56.2% for Korea in 2016, while it was 66.5% for Japan and an average of 59.5% for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2017). Furthermore, the gender gap in the employment rate has remained considerable in Korea. As seen in Figure 12.3, the employment rate of Korean women aged 15 and over has gradually increased from 41.3% in 1980 to 50.2% in 2016. Nevertheless, it is still about 20% lower than that of men, which has remained around 70% over the last 37 years.

Economic institutional structures of the South Korean female labour market

Korea is well known for its rapid and successful industrialisation, which commenced in the 1960s. Despite the noticeable increase in the employment-to-population ratio during the early period of industrialisation,5 Korean female employment was very unstable and unorganised, concentrating on unmarried women in small-scale informal sectors. In the 1980s, the Korean government attempted

(p.294)

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.3: Employment rates of population aged 15 and over, by gender, 1980�2016

Source: Statistics Korea (no date)

(p.295) to shift the core of the economy from light industries to heavy chemical industries. Accordingly, the labour market became more male-dominated and the gender division of work became stronger in Korea (Chang, 2011: 68–81).

Since the late 1990s, Korea has experienced three major social changes relating to female employment: a decline in the economic growth rate; an increasing awareness of gender equality; and a decrease in the fertility rate. The Korean government has tried to deal with these post-industrial social phenomena through such measures as labour market flexibility policy, female employment policy and childcare policy. Overall, it seems that the labour market flexibility policy has exerted a stronger influence on the employment status of Korean women over the last two decades than the other policies. The policy to protect female employment was often overwhelmed by neoliberal assertions that the government should increase flexibility in the labour market so as to overcome the economic crisis. Furthermore, it turned out that the childcare policy was not successful enough to lead to a fundamental change in the unequal division of labour between men and women in the family.

Labour market flexibility policy

The legislative process of introducing the labour market flexibility policy to Korea began in the late 1990s (see Table 12.1). The Labour Standards Act was amended in 1996 to allow ‘dismissal for managerial reasons’ (eg the closure of a business or financial difficulty) and to introduce a flexible working-hour system and part-time workers. However, a crucial moment in this advancement process was the financial crisis of 1997, which triggered a harsh bailout procedure. As the International Monetary Fund required the Korean government to enhance flexibility in the labour market, the Act on the Protection, etc. of Dispatched Workers was enacted in 1998 to justify massive layoffs and non-standard employment.

Since then, a series of measures, similar to those implemented by other post-industrial countries (Emmenegger et al, 2012), that are designed to handle growing employment instability and related social problems have been adopted in Korea. For example, throughout the 2000s, the government gradually extended the coverage of social insurance schemes, including employment insurance, the national pension, health insurance and industrial accident insurance, to non-standard workers. In 2007, the Act on the Protection, etc. of Fixed-term and Part-time Employees was enacted, imposing a two- (p.296) year limitation on fixed-term employment. With this regulation, a guideline was announced in 2012 opening the way for fixed-term workers continuously employed for more than two years to become open-ended workers through a personnel appraisal. In addition, the issue of anti-discrimination against non-standard workers has been on the national agenda. Despite these efforts, however, the poor working conditions attached to non-standard work have improved very little. According to the Survey of the Economically Active Population, in 2016, the average wages per month and per hour for non-standard workers were only 49.2% and 55.4% of those for standard workers (Kim, 2016: 14, 16). Furthermore, the average rates of non-standard worker coverage by social insurance schemes have remained as low as 30–40% during the last 10 years; by contrast, nearly all standard workers were covered by the national pension (about 96%), healthcare insurance (about 99%) and employment insurance (about 85%) (Kim, 2016: 25). More importantly, the two-year limitation on the fixed-term contract by the Act on the Protection, etc. of Fixed-term and Part-time Employees has been utilised against its original intent as giving employers an excuse to hire new temporary workers or outsource work instead of renewing contracts with existing fixed-term workers (Nam, 2007).

On the other hand, the government has continued to elaborate on the labour market flexibility policies, adding rules and regulations on working hours and dismissal procedures in 2008.

Table 12.1: Development of labour market flexibility policy

Year

Policy level

Key policy changes

1996

The Labour Standards Act

Introduced ‘dismissal for managerial reasons’ and a flexible working-hour system

1998

Establishment of the Korea Tripartite Commission

First introduction of a presidential advisory body comprising representatives of the labour, capital and the government to deal with important labour issues

The Act on the Protection, etc. of Dispatched Workers

Provided regulations concerning massive layoffs and non-standard employment

2007

The Act on the Protection, etc. of Dispatched Workers The Act on the Protection, etc. of Fixed-term and Part-time Employees

Provided regulations concerning massive layoffs and non-standard employment Imposed a two-year limitation on the duration of fixed-term employment

2012

Guidelines of the above Act

Introduced a new type called open-ended term employment

2015

Agreement of the Tripartite Commission

A labour market reform that allowed employers to extend the duration of fixed-term employment and the range of operating dispatched workers

(p.297) In addition, a presidential advisory body called the Economic and Social Development Commission reached an agreement on labour market reforms in 2015, which allowed the duration of fixed-term employment and the range of operating dispatched workers to be extended. Although the agreement stipulated both strengthening the protection of non-standard workers and rationalising the regulations of employment, it was expected to be more beneficial to employers rather than non-standard employees. Before long, the government announced new guidelines in relation to this reform. The guidelines included many clauses weakening workers’ positions in the workplace. For example, employers were then permitted to dismiss employees for no reason other than ‘low performance’ and to revise work rules against the labour union’s will if justified on the basis of so-called ‘collective rationality’ (Lee et al, 2016).

Female employment policy

The low fertility trend since the 2000s has made the Korean government pay attention to enhancing the work–life balance of working mothers and protecting their employment (see Table 12.2). For example, the schemes for both maternity leave (introduced in 1953 by the Labour Standard Act) and parental leave (introduced in 1988 by the Gender Equal Employment Act) have greatly expanded as key policies of the Basic Plan to Address Low Fertility and Ageing Society enacted in 2006. The Amendment of the Act on Equal Employment and Support for Work–Family Reconciliation from 2007 is another important piece of legislation that contributes to the development of work–family balance policies. In particular, certain aspects of the parental leave scheme involving the payment, length and flexibility of the scheme were modified. However, these expanded modifications to the leave policies were applicable only to standard workers as the current parental leave scheme still imposes very strict restrictions on the eligibility of non-standard workers. It requires workers to be covered by employment insurance for at least 180 days before applying for both maternity leave and parental leave. Moreover, employers can refuse to grant parental leave to workers employed for less than one year at the current company. Although the government has introduced such measures as subsidies for employers who hold contracts with fixed-term or dispatched female workers in pregnancy or on maternity leave, such measures have not yet proven effective.

On the other hand, since 2010, the government started creating new part-time jobs for women under the guise of social investment (p.298)

Table 12.2: Policy initiatives to increase female employment

Year

Policy level

Key policy changes

2001

The Labour Standard Act

Extension of the length of maternity leave up to 90 days

The Gender Equal Employment Act

The parental leave scheme turned into paid leave

2006

The 1st Basic Plan to address Low Fertility and Ageing Society

A rise in the payment of both maternity leave (to 100% of ordinary earnings with a ceiling of 1,350,000 KRW) and parental leave (to 500,000 KRW per month)

2007

The Act on Equal Employment and Support for Work–Family Reconciliation

Expansion of the parental leave schemes including the payment (40% of ordinary earnings with a ceiling of 1,000,000 KRW and a minimum of 500,000 KRW), the length (one year for each parent) and the flexibility (possible to choose between full-time leave and the reduced working hour scheme; possible to use the leave for two separate periods until the child passes the age of eight years or the second grade in elementary school)

2010

The National Employment Strategy 2020

Proposed a plan for part-time employment in standard (ie permanent) position (eg a total of 930,000 new part-time jobs in 2013)

– highlighting the efficient use of human capital and the harmony between female employment policy and family policy (Lee and Baek, 2014). As a part of the National Employment Strategy 2020, the government proposed a plan to expand regular part-time employment contributing to work–family balance in 2010. It was followed in 2013 by a policy that aimed at providing married women with opportunities to get quality part-time jobs. In particular, the government proposed creating a total of 930,000 new high-quality part-time jobs. This tool was implemented in 2014 by introducing the time-selective employment category to the public sector and offering subsidies to employers who created part-time jobs in the private sector. Concerns have been raised, however, over the sustainability of the subsidy programme. Critics argued that the expiration of the subsidy programme would result in unstable and low-paying jobs, even adding non-standard employees to the Korean female labour market (Kim and Lee, 2014).

Childcare policy

Korea is one of the East Asian countries with strong familialism and patriarchal ideals (Chang and Song, 2010), which generated a care (p.299) regime in which women in the family were the sole care providers. The continuous decline in fertility rates, however, has raised awareness of alternatives to the patriarchal familial care institution. In search of a new care regime, the Korean government developed a series of childcare service policies, which were first implemented in the 2000s, including the Mid- and Long-term Comprehensive Development Plan of Childcare Business, the Infant Care Act, the Childcare Support Policy Measures, the Basic Plan to Address Low Fertility and Ageing Society, and, finally, the Childcare Support Act (see Table 12.3). The Childcare Support Act introduced the ‘universal childcare service’ policy for all children aged 0–2 in 2012 and expanded it to include children aged 3–5 in 2013, with no income constraints (Baek, 2009; Committee for 50 Years of Korean Population Policy, 2016).

As a result, the enrolment rates of children under six in childcare facilities increased from 53.2% in 2006 to 67.0% in 2014. However, Korea’s childcare policies had a critical limitation in establishing a new care regime: rather than directly providing an in-kind childcare service, which would have required significant amounts of time and money to construct, the government opted to offer vouchers for the use of private childcare facilities. According to the National Childcare Statistics, private childcare facilities comprised about 87% of total childcare facilities and took care of 76% of the total children who enrolled in any type of childcare in 2014. The problem with this system is that mothers are dissatisfied with the quality of private childcare services – which may be associated with the poor working conditions of childcare service workers and the lack of governmental supervision (Kim, 2015; Committee for 50 Years of Korean Population Policy, 2016).

Furthermore, there was an attempt to turn the direction of childcare policies from defamilialisation to (re)familialisation in the mid-2010s. If we define defamilialisation of childcare as a process that makes childcare available outside of the family unit, Korea’s childcare policies during the early period of expansion followed such a definition. Given concerns over the increase in the childcare budget, however, the government launched a pilot project limiting the eligibility of full-time childcare services for children aged 0–2 to only working mothers in 2015. In 2016, the project, referred to as the ‘tailored childcare service’ policy, was finally applied to the whole country (Kim and Lee, 2016).

The policy reducing the coverage of childcare services was paralleled by the expansion of the home childcare allowance. When first introduced in 2009, the childcare allowance was offered only to second-tier poor households with children who were younger than (p.300)

Table 12.3: Development of childcare policy

Year

Policy level

Key policy changes

2001

The Mid- and Long-term Comprehensive Development Plan of Childcare Business

Aimed to enhance the quality of public childcare services, to improve the expertise and working conditions of childcare workers, and to reform the childcare administrative system

2004–05

Amendment of the Infant Care Act

Modify standards for childcare facilities and strengthen public childcare systems

2006

Announcement of Childcare Support Policy Measures The 1st Basic Plan to Address Low Fertility and Ageing Society

Develop an integrated childcare system on a cross-ministry basis Provided the basis of the collaboration among Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Gender Equality and Family

2009

The Infant Care Act

Introduced the home childcare allowance to second-tier poor households with children aged under 24 months

2012

The Childcare Support Act

Abolished income constraints on providing childcare vouchers for all children under the age of six

2013

The Infant Care Act

Expanded the home childcare allowance to all households with children aged under six years

2014

The Childcare Support Act

‘Tailored childcare service’ limiting the use of full-time childcare services on the basis of the employment status of parents

24 months. The government expanded its coverage and benefit to all households with children who were younger than six years in 2013, regardless of household income level, if not using any childcare facilities. In addition, the part-time childcare voucher was introduced in 2014 as a corresponding policy to the part-time female employment policy (Committee for 50 Years of Korean Population Policy, 2016). From the perspective that these policies assume mothers in the family to be the main caregivers, the direction of the policies can be defined as (re)familialisation.

Employment conditions among female part-time workers in South Korea

As mentioned earlier, Korea’s part-time employment policy was introduced as a way to enhance the work–life balance of married women and reduce the risk of career breaks due to childbirth and childrearing. In this section, we will examine the employment conditions of Korean female part-time workers with young children (p.301) by analysing data collected through the South Korean National Survey on Fertility, Family Health, and Welfare in 2015. A total of 11,009 married women aged between 15 and 49 years6 were surveyed about their marriage, childbirth, childrearing and career (including current and past employment).7 Regarding current employment status, the respondents were asked whether or not they work, whether they work full-time (ie 36 hours or more per week) or part-time (ie less than 36 hours), whether they were wage-earners (ie regular workers, temporary workers, daily workers) or non-wage-earners (ie the self-employed, non-paid workers for the family business), and whether they were in permanent employment (ie the duration of employment is not specified) or in temporary employment (ie the duration of employment is specified).8

Female permanent or temporary employment

Figure 12.4 reports the employment pattern of married Korean women aged between 15 and 49. Overall, 56.5% of the respondents were employed at the time of survey, of which 21.1% were working on a part-time basis. The share of temporary employment among wage-earners was 41.7%.9 It is worth noting that the share of permanent employment is a crucial difference between full-timers and part-timers. The share of permanent employment among the total part-time wage-earners was only 10.7% (= 0.9/[0.9 + 7.5]), while that among the total full-time wage-earners was 69.7% (= 24.4/[24.4 + 10.6]). In other words, most Korean female part-time wage-earners had a low level of employment protection in common, whereas full-time wage-earners were divided into a highly protected employment group, on the one hand, and a loosely protected employment group, on the other.

In addition, we examined the employment status of married women by age of the youngest child. In Korea, it is assumed that children under the age of nine typically need careful parental care and attention, for example, workers are allowed to take parental leave until their children turn nine years old (or become second graders in elementary school). As seen in Figure 12.4, the employment rate of those whose youngest child was under nine (45.5%) was about 10 percentage points lower than the total average. On the other hand, the proportion of part-timers among the employed with young children (25.7%) was more than 4 percentage points higher than the total average. The proportion of non-standard workers among the wage-earners grew with the increase in the age of the youngest child because middle-aged Korean married women who re-enter (p.302)

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.4: Employment pattern of 15- to 49-year-old married Korean women, by motherhood status (%)

the labour market are likely to be given non-standard positions (Lee et al, 2016).

Hereinafter, we will compare the employment condition of part-time workers with that of full-time workers having young children under the age of nine in order to verify whether part-timers are more marginalised than full-timers in the Korean female labour market. Among the various aspects of the employment condition, we will focus on ‘wages’. In order to control differences attributed to the different working hours between part-timers and full-timers, we will look at ‘hourly wage’ instead of monthly or weekly wage. Prior to examining the employment condition, we will look at past employment history, the uptake rate of work–life balance policies and socio-economic status, which helps us identify who Korean female part-time workers are. Most importantly, we will make a distinction between full-time ‘permanent’ wage-earners (FT-Ps) (n = 1,026) and full-time ‘temporary’ wage-earners (FT-Ts) (n = 326) given that whether or not the duration of employment is specified greatly affects manifold employment conditions, including eligibility for employment insurance membership in Korea. The number of part-time ‘permanent’ wage- (p.303) earners was so small that we included only part-time ‘temporary’ wage-earners (PT-Ts) (n = 350) in our analysis. None of the non-wage-earners were included because the labour market policies discussed in the previous section only apply to wage-earners.

Employment history in relation to the use of work–family policy measures

Although we categorised our respondents based on their current employment status at the time of the survey, they were also asked several questions about their employment history regardless of their current employment status. For example, the survey included questions about the number of years of employment not only at the current workplace, but also at all workplaces in which they had been employed until the time of survey. In addition, the respondents were asked whether they had been continuously employed without a career break during one year around such life events as marriage and childbirth (ie from six months before each lifetime event to six months after the event).

As seen in Figure 12.5, the duration of Korean female wage-earner work experience varied according to the type of employment contract rather than working-time arrangement. PT-Ts and FT-Ts had similar years of both total employment and current employment (9.0 years and 2.2 years for PT-Ts; 8.8 years and 2.3 years for FT-Ts), which is much shorter than for FT-Ps (11.3 years and 7.5 years). A similar pattern was found in the proportion of those who had experienced continuous employment from six months before their first marriage to six months after marriage. This indicator shows us how many women worked without a career break around such a life event since we excluded those who had never been employed or had left their job during that year from our respondents who had experienced the life event. The share of those who had experienced continuous employment around their first marriage was only 48.4% among PT-Ts and 42.1% among FT-Ts, whereas it was as high as 82.7% among FT-Ps. The rate of continuous employment around the time of childbirth dropped much more rapidly among temporary workers on both a part-time and a full-time basis than permanent workers. The share of those who had been continuously employed from six months before their first childbirth to six months after the life event was below 20% among both PT-Ts and FT-Ts. On the contrary, the proportion among FT-Ps hovered around 70% without a rapid decrease.

In brief, Figure 12.5 informs us that a large number of Korean female temporary workers in both full-time and part-time arrangements left

(p.304)

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobsAre female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.5: Employment history of Korean female workers with at least one child under nine

Source: Korea National Survey on Fertility, Family Health and Welfare 2015

a previous job after marriage or childbirth. This trend raises some questions: why did they leave their jobs? Did the Korean government’s expansion of work–family reconciliation policies, which were first implemented in the 2000s, not alleviate these problems? Figure 12.6 clearly shows that these temporary workers have been excluded from the female employment protection system. As presented in Figure 12.6, (p.305) the take-up rate of maternity leave was less than 20% for both PT‑Ts and FT-Ts, while for FT-Ps, it was over 70%. These proportions are nearly identical to the proportions of female workers who were continuously employed after childbirth, suggesting that maternity leave is a critical employment protection system for workers who have given birth. This further indicates how closely the dual structure of the labour market is associated with the mechanism reproducing the precarious status of female non-standard workers in Korea. In other words, it shows us that Korea’s female employment protection system benefits only labour market insiders (ie permanent workers), offering hardly any assistance to outsiders (ie temporary workers).

As to the take-up rate of parental leave, the overall average is much lower than that of maternity leave. Nevertheless, the trend for uptake rates is similar to the trend for maternity leave as the rates were much lower for temporary workers (less than 10% for both PT-Ts and FT‑Ts) than permanent workers (about 48% for FT-Ps). Meanwhile, the take-up rates of reduced working hours and flexible working hours were very low even among FT-Ps (6.0% and 4.5%). This reminds us how long working hours actually are in Korea. According to the OECD (2018), in 2016, the average number of annual hours worked per worker was 2,069 hours in Korea – 306 hours higher than the OECD total average.

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.6: Uptake rates of work–life balance policies by Korean female workers with at least one child under nine (%)

Source: Korea National Survey on Fertility, Family Health and Welfare 2015

(p.306) The socio-economic status and wage level of part-timers

According to the previous section, the employment history of Korean female workers, including career breaks related to family change, is associated with the type of employment contract (ie permanent or temporary employment) rather than the working-time arrangement. In other words, there was no critical difference in employment history between part-timers and full-timers if they were in temporary positions.

However, we found that socio-economic status had some significant association with working-time arrangement even among those in temporary positions. Figure 12.7 illustrates how much a respondent’s husband earned on average over the three months preceding the survey and how many respondents had attained a college degree. The average monthly spousal income revealed a significant difference between part-timers and full-timers in temporary positions: husbands of PT-Ts earned 3,258,000 KRW a month on average, while husbands of FT-Ts tended to earn a much smaller amount of money (2,912,000 KRW) during the same period of time. This suggests that lower spousal earnings likely increase the working hours of Korean female temporary workers.10 In addition, Korean female full-time temporary workers had a lower socio-economic status than part-time temporary workers in terms of educational level. The proportion of those with a college degree was significantly lower among FT-Ts (48.8%) than among PT‑Ts (59.8%). In other words, it is probable that Korean female full-time temporary workers are a more disadvantaged population compared not only to full-time permanent workers, but also to part-time temporary workers in Korea.

Now let us compare the wage level of part-timers to that of full-timers. We defined the hourly income as follows: hourly income = monthly income/(hours actually worked per week*4), where ‘monthly income’ refers to the average wage per month over the three months preceding the survey and ‘hours actually worked per week’ refers to the typical number of working hours with no particular reference week. As seen in Figure 12.8, the average hourly income of part-timers (11,000 KRW) was lower than that of full-timers (13,000 KRW). Given that the wage level is greatly affected by years of employment at most Korean workplaces, part-timers’ lower income might be significantly associated with their shorter duration of current employment (3.1 years) compared to that of full-timers (5.9 years).

For temporary workers, however, we saw somewhat different features. First, the average years of current employment of PT-Ts

(p.307)

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobsAre female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.7: Socio-economic status of Korean female workers with at least one child under nine

Source: Korea National Survey on Fertility, Family Health and Welfare 2015

(2.2 years) and FT-Ts (2.3 years) were similar. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it was not PT-Ts (12,000 KRW), but FT-Ts (9,000 KRW), who had lower wages per hour. Previously, we found that the spouses of Korean female FT-Ts tended to earn less money than those of Korean female PT-Ts. Furthermore, these FT-Ts had lower levels of educational attainment than PT-Ts. To put all these findings together, Korean female full-time temporary workers without a college education might be compelled to take very low-paying jobs and extend their working hours because of their low household income.

In addition, we saw a sign of dualisation within part-time workers in Figure 12.8. Part-timers with a college education earned as much

(p.308)

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.8: Average hourly income of Korean female workers with at least one child under nine

(p.309)

Monthly income (10,000 KRW)

Hours actually worked per week

Hourly income (10,000 KRW)

Years of current employment

Full-time

Standard

(N = 1026)

242.2

42.3

1.4

7.5

Non-standard

(N = 326)

149.2

42.7

0.9

2.3

Non-wage earners

(N = 271)

180.9

44.4

1.1

4.1

High school or below

(N = 456)

153.4

44.1

0.9

4.2

College or above

(N = 1167)

236.6

42.2

1.4

6.5

Total

(N = 1623)

213.3

42.7

1.3

5.9

Part-time

Standard

(N = 42)

137.6

27.2

1.3

3.5

Non-standard

(N = 350)

94.2

23.5

1.2

2.2

Non-wage earners

(N = 168)

87.9

24.4

1.1

4.9

High school or below

(N = 197)

73.4

26.5

0.7

2.4

College or above

(N = 363)

107.6

22.7

1.4

3.5

Total

(N = 560)

95.6

24.0

1.1

3.1

Total

(N = 2183)

183.1

37.9

1.2

5.2

Note: Hourly income = monthly income/(hours actually worked per week*4)

Source: Korea National Survey on Fertility, Family Health and Welfare, 2015

(p.310) income per hour as full-timers with a college education (14,000 KRW on average), while the average hourly income of part-timers without a college education (7,000 KRW) was much lower than that of full-timers without a college education (9,000 KRW). As a result, the wage gap by education level was bigger among part-timers (7,000 KRW) than among full-timers (5,000 KRW). This implies a potential dualisation of Korean part-time employment, which seems to be highly associated with such factors as educational achievement and skills required for the job. Figure 12.9 further suggests the heterogeneity of Korean female part-timers by plotting the distribution of hourly income by occupation of all wage-earners with a childbirth experience (regardless of the age of their youngest child) in our data set. As seen in the graphs, the range of income distribution was much wider for part-time temporary workers than full-time permanent workers. In contrast, only a small variation was found among full-time temporary workers as most full-time temporary employees are concentrated in low-paying jobs.

Conclusion

The Korean government has encouraged married women to take up part-time jobs since the 2010s in order to increase female employment rates. Under the strong influence of the labour market flexibility policy, however, most part-time jobs have been created on the basis of temporary contracts. Furthermore, the Korean childcare regime has not sufficiently defamilialised or degenderised to allow these women to actually choose between work and child-rearing. Consequently, it seems that Korea’s part-time employment policy has achieved neither of its goals as families have been unable to independently manage their poverty risks and married women with young children have not achieved a work–life balance. The social security system in Korea is not sufficiently developed for married women from a family at risk of poverty to reduce their working hours and still make a living. On the other hand, a part-time job is not an attractive option for those from a middle- or high-income family because its employment condition does not match their expectations. If they have already experienced a career break and if they are not so poor that they ‘can’ choose between working again and staying at home, they tend to choose the latter. This is because it is so difficult for them to find a decent job or enter into male-dominant jobs (regardless of working-time arrangement) while balancing responsibilities for childcare and housework.

(p.311)

Are female part-time workers dualised in South Korea? Institutional structures and employment conditions of South Korean female part-time jobs

Figure 12.9: Distribution of hourly income of Korean female workers with a childbirth experience, by occupation

Note: Classification of occupations: (1) managers, professionals, armed forces; (2) clerical support workers; (3) service and sales workers; (4) craft workers, machine operators and assemblers; and (5) forestry and fishery workers, elementary occupations (STATA version 12.0 was employed to generate the box plots).

Source: Korea National Survey on Fertility, Family Health and Welfare 2015

(p.312) We found that, on the whole, the hourly income of female part-timers with young children was lower than that of full-timers in Korea in 2015. This was because most part-time jobs were coupled with temporary employment in which the wage level was much lower than permanent employment. On the other hand, a sign of dualisation was found within the Korean female part-timers. The gap in the average hourly income between those with a college degree and those without was wider among part-timers than among full-timers. Furthermore, the distribution range of hourly income was much wider for part-time temporary workers than for full-time temporary workers. More research will be required to investigate how these factors are involved in the dualisation process of part-time employment. In addition, we should improve the quality of part-time jobs – in terms of, for example, the level of employment protection and wages – so that married women (and men) can actually consider a part-time job as a real option to maintain both the quality of life and the balance between work and family.

While most feminists have been highlighting issues of gendered segregation in the labour market, part-time work-related policies have always been a matter targeting females. However, recently, the Korean government and policymakers seem to have taken the problem of female concentration in temporary and part-time work more seriously, due to the continuous low fertility rate and high speed of demographic change. The fast demographic transition facilitated discussion on fathers’ parental leave (with a higher level of parental leave benefits when fathers take it up from 2019). Also, the historical rapid increase in the minimum wage in 2018 sparked a discussion on shared working hours, offering the possibility of developing policy to create part-time jobs for male permanent workers. However, the gendered division of labour is still rigid and the unionisation rate of female workers (who are concentrated in temporary full-time and part-time jobs) is also very low, which suggests that to mitigate the concentration of mothers in part-time work in Korea may require a more configurational approach in reforming the existing policy arrangements.

Acknowledgement

This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF – 2015S1A3A2046566).

References

Bibliography references:

Ahn, M.B. and Bahn, J.H. (2007) ‘Part-time work of women: choice and motivations’, Monthly Labour Review: Korea Labor Institute, November: 27–47 (in Korean).

(p.314) Baek, S.H. (2009) ‘Evaluation on childcare policy during 10 years of Kim, Dae-Jung and Roh, Moo-Hyun’s administrations: focus on national plans’, Journal of Critical Social Policy, 28: 95–141 (in Korean).

Chang, K.-S. (2011) South Korea under compressed modernity: familial political economy in transition, New York, NY: Routledge.

Chang, K.-S. and Song, M.-Y. (2010) ‘The stranded individualizer under compressed modernity: South Korean women in individualization without individualism’, The British Journal of Sociology, 61(3): 539–64.

Committee for 50 Years of Korean Population Policy (2016) From antinatalist to pronatalist, Sejong: Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare and Korea Institute of Health and Social Affairs (in Korean).

Emmenegger, P., Häusermann, S., Palier, B. and Seeleib-Kaiser, M. (2012) The age of dualisation: the changing face of inequality in Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

International Labour Organization (ILO), ILOSTAT (no date) ‘Key indicators of the labour market’. Available at: www.ilo.org/ilostat (accessed 8 January 2018).

Jeong, S.-M. (2010) ‘Present conditions and characteristics of Korean female part-time workers’, Labour Review: Korea Labor Institute, December: 73–86 (in Korean).

Kim, E.-J. and Lee, H.-S. (2016) Evaluation of the impact of Child Care Subsidy Program, Sejong: Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (in Korean).

Kim, S.-J. (2015) ‘The trilemma of childcare service: Korean strategy and its consequences’, Economy and Society, 105: 64–93 (in Korean).

Kim, Y. and Lee, S.-Y. (2014) ‘Analysis of the time selective job policy: a comparative study on South Korea, Netherlands and Germany’, Korea Social Policy Review, 21(3): 93–128 (in Korean).

Kim, Y.-S. (2016) ‘The size and pattern of non-standard employment: the results of survey on economically active population (additional module, August 2016)’, KLSI Issue Paper Vol. 9, Korea Labour and Society Institute (in Korean).

Lee, J.H. (2012) ‘Policy alternatives for improving labor rights of women: a holistic response to Wollstonecraft dilemma’, Journal of Korean Women’s Studies, 28(3): 35–62 (in Korean).

Lee, S.S.Y. and Baek, S.H. (2014) ‘Why the social investment approach is not enough – the female labour market and family policy in the Republic of Korea’, Social Policy & Administration, 48(6): 686–703.

Lee, S.Y., Ahn, J.Y. and Kim, Y. (2016) ‘Why women are left as outsiders in the labour market: a comparative study on the labour market between South Korea and Japan’, Korea Social Policy Review, 23(2): 201–37 (in Korean).

(p.315) Nam, W.K. (2007) ‘The Act on Protection of Non-Standard Employment: between dismissal and discrimination’, Non-Standard Employment, 59: 12–26 (in Korean).

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (2017) ‘Employment rate (indicator)’. Available at: https://data.oecd.org/emp/employment-rate.htm (accessed 29 August 2017).

OECD (2018) ‘Hours worked (indicator)’. Available at: https://data.oecd.org/emp/hours-worked.htm (accessed 6 April 2018).

OECD.Stat (2018) ‘Educational attainment and labour-force status’. Available at: http://stats.oecd.org (accessed 6 February 2018).

Seong, J.M. (2014) ‘The expansion of female part-time jobs and its implications in Korea’, Labour Review: Korea Labor Institute, July: 20–33 (in Korean).

Seong, J.M. and Ahn, J.Y. (2007) ‘Voluntariness and job satisfaction of part-time employment’, Labour Economy Studies, 30(1): 109–37 (in Korean).

Shin, K.-A. (2015) ‘The marginalization of permanent part-time women workers in organizations’, Journal of Korean Women’s Studies, 31(2): 131–79 (in Korean).

Statistics Korea (no date) ‘Survey of Economically Active Population’. Available at: http://kostat.go.kr/portal/eng/index.action (accessed 8 January 2018).

Statistics Korea (2016) ‘The results of Survey on Economically Active Population’, additional module, August, press release, 3 November (in Korean).

Statistics Korea (2017) ‘Indicators of work–life balance in 2016’, press release 15 December (in Korean).

Yang, H.S. and Park, J.W. (2016) ‘Choice of women with young children between full-time and part-time work’, Korea Social Policy, 25(2): 151–81 (in Korean). (p.316)

Notes:

(1) For example, type of employment contract, expected duration of current employment and whether or not the worker will be covered by social insurance schemes.

(2) This national survey has been conducted every month since 1963 in order to examine the employment status and conditions of the South Korean people in general. Its sample included every person aged 15 or over belonging to 33,000 households selected from all regions of the country through a stratified three-stage cluster sampling method in 2016.

(3) This KLSI calculation is 11.7% higher than Statistics Korea’s calculation (Kim, 2016; Statistics Korea, 2016). There are no available data for an international comparison of the proportion of non-standard workers. However, it is reported that Korea has a much higher proportion of temporary workers (21.9%) compared to other countries, such as Japan (7.2%), the UK (6.0%) and Germany (13.1%) as of 2016 (OECD, 2017).

(4) This is attributed to the significant increase in the share of the female population with tertiary education: from 11.9% (55–64 years), 30.9% (45–54 years) and 57.9% (35–44 years), to 74.8% (25–34 years) (OECD. stat, 2018).

(5) The employment rate of the female population aged 15 and older has increased from 34.3% in 1963 to 41.3% in 1980 and 46.2% in 1990 (Statistics Korea, no date).

(6) This survey, which first began in the 1970s, has a long history. At that time, Korean mothers’ age at childbirth was much younger than nowadays, which was why the survey defined the childbearing age as between 15 and 49.

(7) The respondents were all married women who were between 15 and 49 years old and residing at the time of the survey in 12,000 households selected from all regions of the country through a stratified three-stage cluster sampling method.

(8) The survey included 221 open-ended contract workers. Since all of them were regular workers and their duration of employment was not specified, we classified them as permanent workers rather than temporary workers.

(9) This is already high enough, and it increases if we include married women aged 50 years or older, as we saw earlier.

(10) This corresponds to the findings of previous research (eg Yang and Park, 2016).