Gender Equality in South Korea

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Flag of South_Korea
Population (in Mil.) 50.00
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 1,222.81
Sex Ratio (m/f) 1
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.076923077
Fertility Rate 1.23
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.44
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 103.9
Women in Parliament (in %) 15.7
Human Development Index 12/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index /86
Gender Inequality Index 12/186
Gender Equity Index 100/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 35/128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables


Government commitments and efforts to increase equality in the labour market and politics has only had limited success to date. The prevailing traditional belief, based on Confusian principles, that women belong in the home raising children persists, and along with inflexible work practices, this leads to the exclusion of women from the labour market once they have children. In Korea, fertility rates in 2005 were the lowest of all OECD countries; on average women aged between 15 and 49 had just 1.1 babies born per woman. Only just over half of Korean women with a university level of Education are in the workforce.

Social Institutions

The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) measures gender-based discrimination in social norms, practices and laws across 160 countries. The SIGI comprises country profiles, a classification of countries and a database; it serves as a research, policy and advocacy tool for the development community and policy makers.

The SIGI covers five dimensions of discriminatory social institutions, spanning major socio-economic areas that affect women’s lives: discriminatory family code, restricted physical integrity, son bias, restricted resources and assets, and restricted civil liberties. The SIGI’s variables quantify discriminatory social institutions such as unequal inheritance rights, early marriage, violence against women, and unequal land and property rights.

In the 2014 edition of the SIGI, Korea was not classified in the SIGI due to lack of full dataset. It has lower discrimination in discriminatory family code and higher discrimination in restricted access to resources and assets. Read the full country profile and access the data here:


The 1948 Constitution includes articles promoting the equality of sexes in employment, education and all aspects of private and public life. In 1985, the Equal Employment Act was enacted with the purpose of increasing equality in the labour market between the sexes. In 1995, the Women's Development Act was passed in the Korean Assembly, in the wake of the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action, with the purpose of eliminating discrimination against women. The Act stipulated the duties of public bodies to eliminate discrimination, to promote the advancement of women in public life, and to enhance their welfare and living conditions within the family. In 2001, the Ministry of Gender Equality was established as a central government ministry; it was expanded in 2005 and renamed the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.


In Korea, usual weekly working hours tend to be very long with almost 90% of the male workforce spending over 40 hours a week at work as compared with the 76% OECD average. Although a smaller percentage of Korean women work over 40 hours a week (77%), this is significantly higher than the OECD average of 49% of women who work over 40 hours per week. A significant gender Wage gap (at median earnings) could also be a disincentive for women to enter the workforce, at 40 percentage points at median male average earnings. This gap is more than double the OECD average. Other unfavourable labour market outcomes for women include a large (one third) proportion of women holding temporary work contracts and the fact that very few women have supervisory responsibilities (8%).

Women still occupy lower ranks in the workplace compared to their male counterparts. Most female workers work for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. Despite the laws prohibiting discrimination and the government's supervision, discriminatory practices still remain in the labor market. Lack of support measures for female workers, who must also care for the family, and insufficient Child care support policies are also reasons behind slow progress. Mothers are in effect punished for taking time-off from work by missing out on pay increases when wages are based on seniority.

In 2006, the First five-year Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Women Resources and the Female Employment Expansion Measures were established with various government organizations involved in the efforts to raise the level of participation of women in the workforce. This includes plans to expand public child care provision and to encourage men to take parental leave to support raising children.


There is parity in secondary school enrolment, as the enrolment ratio of 95% attests. In the case of higher education, however, a small disparity exists between genders in terms of college enrollment (61.7% for males, 57.6% for females). In 2004, 57% of women with a university level of education participated in the labour force compared with 59% of women who had only attained a compulsory education. This contrasts with trends in other countries where women with a university level degree achieve higher rates of participation in the labour force than those with lower educational levels.

Political Participation

With the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, women achieved constitutional rights for equal opportunities to pursue education, work, and public life. The government amended the Act on Elections for Public Offices in 2004: 50% of candidates proposed by parties for the National Assembly or Local Council elections must be women; for regional assemblies, 30% of candidates must be women.


The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women? 

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on South Korea, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law South Korea


The FAO Gender and Landrights Database

The FAO Gender and Landrights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender
FAO logo.jpg
inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access

is one of the major causes for social and gender in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.

Six categories

The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:

• National legal frame

• International treaties and conventions

• Customary law

• Land tenure and related Institutions

• Civil society organizations • Selected Land Related Statistics

For detailed information information on South Korea, please visit the report on in the FAO Gender and Landrights Database.

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