[EDITORIALS]Korean women’s rough roadToday is International Women’s Day. On Sunday, the 21st Korea Women’s Convention was held to mark the occasion; the women’s groups who met there adopted the eradication of female poverty as their top agenda item. The issue is a serious one for our society.
There are two factors in our society that bring about, and aggravate, women’s poverty. They are unemployment and an aging population.
Over the past three decades, the percentage of women with university educations has increased from 19.9 percent to 77.5 percent, an explosive increase. Yet as of 2003, only 61.6 percent of female college graduates had jobs, 28.1 percentage points lower than men in the same year. For a woman, having an advanced degree makes it even harder to find a job. That is an enormous loss.
As of 2003, only 23.2 percent of working women had jobs that guaranteed a regular income. That means women, to a large degree, are working at temporary and daily-wage jobs.
Furthermore, the average working woman’s income is only 64.2 percent that of working men’s. That figure has fallen even further over the past three years. No wonder women quit their jobs at a higher rate than men do.
Despite these realities, women live longer, on average, than men. As of 2004, 60.3 percent of Korea’s over-65 population was female. Of these women, only 32.3 percent had a job or a husband with a job.
Overall, then, Korean women work in unstable, low-wage jobs, and face poverty and loneliness in their senescent years.
To stop the vicious cycle of the female poverty, the quality and quantity of jobs must be simultaneously increased. Correcting discrimination against female temporary workers can be one way. Women workers must also be allowed to return to their jobs after maternity leaves through reeducation programs. It is time to come up with diversified, feasible and creative measures to make the best use of this nation’s female workforce.