A latest report showed that nearly half of Korea's working moms leave their jobs within a year after taking childcare leave.
According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, only 56.6 percent of mothers continued to work a year after their childcare leave ended as of 2014. It also said that women at smaller companies faced more difficulty in retaining their jobs after maternity leave.
Many women chose to quit working after maternity leave because of discrimination and long work hours. This explains why Korea has one of the lowest female employment rates among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.
Korea's birthrate, the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, is the lowest among OECD members at 1.24 in 2015. But Korean workplaces are still inconducive to raising a family. An OECD report showed that Koreans on average worked 2,124 hours in 2014, which is 1.2 times more than the OECD average. Due to the long hours, many women find it difficult to seek help with childcare outside of family members.
Raising the birthrate and increasing female workforce are both essential for national competitiveness. The government must come up with sweeping measures to encourage women to keep working.
The OECD report on Going for Growth 2017 urged Korea to promote a workplace culture that supports work-life balance.
The corporate sector should be more active about fostering a more family-oriented office culture. It is important for companies to expand in-house childcare facilities. Companies should encourage more paternity leaves and face punishment for discriminating against working moms.
Presidential hopefuls should sincerely aim to encourage women to keep working with policies that will actually help women balance career and family life.