Number of S. Korean men choosing childcare over careers increases 37 percent on-year: data

By Park Sae-jin Posted : February 21, 2024, 13:30 Updated : February 21, 2024, 13:30
Gettyimages Bank
[Gettyimages Bank]

SEOUL -- Recent data from the national statistical information service revealed a significant uptick in South Korean men prioritizing childcare over their careers. This trend marks a notable shift in a traditionally conservative society, where societal biases often discourage men from assuming primary childcare responsibilities.

In South Korea, deeply influenced by Confucian values, men traditionally bear responsibility for matters outside the home, such as providing for the family and ensuring their safety. Conversely, women are traditionally responsible for domestic tasks, including childcare, home education, cooking, and household chores.

Under South Korean law, mothers and fathers with children under the age of eight are entitled to up to 12 months of childcare leave. According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, paternity leave recipients accounted for 26.3 percent of all recipients in 2021, totaling 110,555 individuals.

Business operators are prohibited from refusing to provide childcare leave or penalizing employees who take childcare leave, including imposing layoffs, for at least 18 months following their return to work. However, 2,335 cases of violations of law regarding childcare leave were recorded between 2019 and 2023.

Data released by Statistics Korea on February 21 showed that the number of economically inactive men reporting childcare as their main activity in 2023 was 16,000, up 37.4 percent from 12,000 people in 2022. This figure reached its highest point since June 1999, when the national statistics service began compiling related data.

By age group, individuals in their 40s accounted for the majority at 8,400 (53.3 percent), followed by those in their 30s at 4,600 (28.8 percent). However, Statistics Korea cautioned that the number of men taking care of children is small, and statistical volatility should be considered.

Meanwhile, the number of women whose main activity is childcare decreased by 145,000 to 840,000 people, down 14.7 percent year-on-year. The decline is attributed to factors such as the country's increasing average marriage age and decreasing fertility rate. Overall, women still bear the majority of childcare responsibilities, outnumbering men who took care of children by 50 times in 2023.
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