About South Korea
Empirical evidence based on the South Korean economy suggests that the current structure of the paid care sector, rigid work arrangements, and entrenched gender norms may have pushed the South Korean economy into a state in which there are tensions between promoting women’s labor force participation and gender equality on one hand and meeting the growing demand for caregiving on the other. Men and women experience these strains in caring for their households, engaging in social activities, and participating in the labor market. Recent policy actions of the South Korean government acknowledge the need to address the structural constraints related to the care economy. These policies have swiftly evolved from simply lowering the financial burden of care through subsidization to recognizing, reducing, and redistributing the unpaid care burden (3Rs framework) by expanding childcare provision, promoting flexible work arrangements, widening the social security coverage, improving the quality of long-term care and changing gender norms. Furthermore, a recent IMF mission to South Korea has called for an expansionary fiscal policy in the form of higher expenditures on social policies, such as childcare. Assessing the effectiveness of these policies at reversing the decline in fertility, low levels of female labor force participation, stagnant labor force growth, will require a deeper understanding of the care economy in South Korea and a comprehensive macroeconomic framework.