The Ongoing Impacts of COVID-19 on Family Work-Life Balance in South Korea

/ / Conferences, Expert Dialogues & Forums, Policy

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many aspects of everyday life and has brought attention to the care economy and unpaid care work. In South Korea, there were two periods of social distancing measures where schools and childcare centers closed but workplaces did not necessarily close. During the first day of the Concluding Annual Meeting, Dr. Ito Peng (University of Toronto) shared her continuing research of the impact of these measures on families and the balance of work and childcare.

In order to study families during this crisis, the Center for Transnational Migration and Social Inclusion at Seoul National University conducted two nationally representative online surveys of families after the social distancing measures, one in June 2020 and one in April 2021. The data from the first survey revealed that mothers spent more time on childcare, worked from home more, and left the workforce at a higher proportion than fathers. This is consistent with results from other countries around the world. The second round of data collection brought an opportunity to compare and see how the balance evolved in a year of the crisis. In the second survey, fathers worked from home slightly more than mothers which could be due to mothers using up their time off and work from home time in the prior social distancing period. Overall though, women reported being more concerned with balancing work and family life and were more likely to be unhappy with the share of unpaid care work between them and their spouse.

Some policy recommendations would be to harmonize childcare and school closures with business closures, develop and enhance care and support systems for care receivers and givers, promote gender equality policies and invest in social and care infrastructure more.

To watch the full presentation, see below.


Written by Catherine Falvey, Research Assistant for the Care Work and the Economy project and PhD student in Economics at American University

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