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(Yonhap Editorial) Deplorable female employment rate in Korea

All Headlines 18:03 January 21, 2013

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- The country's lamentable female employment record has been exposed yet again as recent data revealed that South Korea had the lowest rate of employment for female college graduates among members of the rich-nations club.

According to the 33-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of all female college graduates in South Korea only 60.1 percent were employed as of 2011, the lowest among the OECD countries surveyed.

The figure was a far cry from the OECD average of 78.7 percent.

Turkey came second from the bottom with 64.4 percent, followed by Mexico, Italy, Greece and the United States, all of which have rates marked over 70 percent.

Showing the disparity of the situation, the employment rate for South Korean male college graduates as of 2011 stood at 89.1 percent, higher than the OECD average of 87.6 percent.

The country also showed an employment gap of 29 percent between female and male college graduates, the largest among the OECD countries surveyed.

In addition, Korea's women part-time workers accounted for 27.7 percent of the entire female workforce, topping the OECD list of 22 countries with such data available. The figure was a sharp contrast to the OECD average of 12.5 percent.

The status of females in Korea, at least ostensibly, has significantly improved in recent years as women account for almost half of successful college entrance and civil service examination applicants.

However, when seeking employment or receiving promotions most women still suffer from serious discrimination.

According to 2011 data from the Ministry of Labor, females accounted for a mere 1.4 percent of all executives at the country's top 100 companies.

The ratio of women executives at state-run enterprises and the country's top 10 securities remained at 9.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

The prime reason attributed to women having difficulties in becoming executives can be found in deep-rooted social discrimination as well as a corporate culture that tacitly pressures females to quit their jobs after marriage or while raising children.

According to the Korea Women's Development Institute, the employment rates of women aged between 25 and 29 and between 35 and 49 came to 72.6 percent and 56.1 percent, respectively, in 2011. The figures specifically show the seriousness of the present situation affecting the job security of women.

Recently, ruling and opposition parties submitted a bill to expand the percentage of female executives at state-run companies, with the aim to obligatorily increase their presence to a minimum of 15 percent in the next three years and a minimum of 30 percent in five years.

In Europe, France passed a bill last year to ensure that 40 percent of corporate managerial posts were filled by women, and Norwegian women can take up 40 percent of executive posts at state-run and listed companies.

It's important to introduce a system for the compulsory allocation of executive posts for women. More importantly, however, the government should work on measures to prevent seasoned female workers from quitting their jobs because of getting married, giving birth or rearing their children, which will be a great loss not only to individual workers but to the nation.

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