Number of men taking paternity leave up 20 percent on year
The number of men taking paternity leave jumped more than 20 percent last year, and for the first time ever, more than 20 percent of people taking the parental leave are men.
"It wasn't hard for me to go on parental leave because I work as a civil servant, but that doesn't mean I didn't worry about my career or financial problems," said a 45-year-old man. "But I think it was the right choice, because every day I spend with my daughter is so precious."
His wife went on parental leave for a year and a half after giving birth, and he is now in charge of taking care of his daughter at home. Every day, he gets his three-year-old daughter ready for kindergarten and prepares food.
According to Statistics Korea, 38,511 men went on parental leave last year to take care of children aged 8 or younger. That's up 20.2 percent on year.
A total of 130,834 women took parental leave, down 0.3 percent.
The combined figure, including men and women, was up 3.7 percent on year to 169,345.
"There are more policies encouraging men to go on paternity leave, such as paid parental leave," said Kang Yoo-kyung, head of the social statistics planning division at Statistics Korea. "More men now take part in household chores, which we think is one of the reasons."
Of the 169,345, 77.3 percent were women and 22.7 percent were men, but last year was the first time men made up for more than 20 percent of the total.
By size, big companies were more receptive of their employees going on parental leave.
Among the total, 62 percent of the women worked for companies with 300 or more employees, and 68.6 percent for men. Only 14.1 percent of the women worked at companies with 50 to 299 employees, and 15.2 percent of men.
By industry, 23.2 percent of the men worked for manufacturing companies. Employees working in the public sector were 19.5 percent of the total. For women, 18.4 percent were in medicine and health care. Public sector jobs came second at 14.6 percent.
In a study of people who took parental leave from 2011 through last year, 74.4 percent of the parents took time off work right after their children were born. Another 10.3 percent did so when the children were 6.
"Most women go on parental leave right after they give birth and when their child is six years old, which is the period just before they go to elementary school and when they need close care," said Kang from Statistics Korea. "Men mostly go on leave between the period when the child starts going to elementary school, at 7, and when they become 8 years old."
BY CHO HYUN-SUK, LEE TAE-HEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]