Development of Work-family Balance Policies in Korea: Continuity and Changes

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


Korea has achieved rapid economic growth since the industrialisation of the 1960s. This has led to increased female participation in the labour market. As a result, work-family balance issues came to prominence from the late 1980s onward. Policies enabling women in paid employment to balance work and family have improved since the 1990s. There have been several reforms of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, including recent reform of the Equal Employment and Support of Work-Family Balance Act in 2014. The current Korean government recently launched a ‘work-life balance campaign’ in February 2014 (MOGEF, 2014). There have also been some cultural shifts regarding gender roles, consequent upon changes in family law to abolish the ‘Hoju’ system – ‘the man as head of the family’. In spite of these changes, the premise that the gendered division of labour in the Korean family has shifted from a traditional to an egalitarian model is doubtful. This paper will examine the development of work-family balance policies in Korea since the 1990s. It will explore to what extent Korean welfare policies for reconciling work and family have changed women’s lives from traditional gender roles to a position of equality. This paper will draw on the findings from qualitative research on how married women in paid employment reconcile paid and unpaid work. Qualitative semi-structured interviews with 20 married women were carried out in Seoul, Korea in 2007. This paper will argue that policies still need to be improved in ways that promote more equal sharing of paid and unpaid work between men and women, in order to achieve true sense of gender equality.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2014
EventEast Asian Social Policy International Conference - US, Hawaii, United States
Duration: 24 Jul 201426 Jul 2014


ConferenceEast Asian Social Policy International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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