korea’s gender pay gap – a workforce woe

My 30-year-old student HyoJung and I chatted yesterday about this OECD one-pager on gender equality in Korea.

Women now outpace men on reading tests here and are neck-and-neck with men in attaining uni degrees. HyoJung told me that employers often credit freshman (new) male employees with two years of experience when they start their jobs, as deference to their military service. Let me think about that. Is that fair? HyoJung doesn’t think so.

Korea has the largest pay difference between genders in OECD countries at 39%.
(Sidebar, Korea also has the skinniest women in the OECD–the US has the fattest–and Korean women are only getting skinnier.)

Korea also has the lowest birthrate in the OECD, and perhaps the lowest rate of males doing housework at 45 minutes per week.

So couple these factors–one, lower pay, slower promotions and lack of incentives for women to rejoin the workforce; and two, not as many future workers being born–and Korea will be begging, borrowing and stealing workers in less than two decades.

Or will the market force societal norms to change? It’ll be interesting to live here in 2032.

In class today at the elementary camp I’m teaching at this month, my kids debated the resolution, “Students should help with housework.”

Nine-year-old Lisa said, “Of course, students should help with housework. If they live in the house, they should help clean the house. It’s fair.”

My most articulate 6th grader Martin said, “I don’t think students should have to do housework. We are students. Our job is to study. My dad’s job is to go to work. My mom doesn’t study. Her job is to clean the house.”

I asked Martin a follow-up question about whether his mom worked outside his home (some, he said) and let it go at that, having broken our debate structure.

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