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Explaining gender gaps in the South Korean labor market during the COVID-19 pandemic

This study explores the reasons for the gender gaps in the South Korean labor market during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results show that 5.5 percent of women are on leave of absence, more than double the percentage of men (2.5 percent). Women have also experienced more unemployment than men. Using a decomposition method, this study finds that one-fifth of the gender difference in leaves of absence is explained by women’s concentration in the care and hospitality industries, which have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic. Moreover, women’s uneven distribution in part-time jobs also contributes to explaining 16.8 percent of the total gender gap. However, 60.8 percent of gender differences in leaves of absence were unexplained by existing arguments, such as occupational or industrial gender segregation and women’s precarious job status. This study shows that this unexplained difference could be caused by the gendered caring role imposed on women.

Highlights

  • The COVID-19 pandemic reproduced existing gender inequalities in the labor market in South Korea.

  • Women workers experienced more unemployment and leaves of absence than men workers.

  • Married women workers experienced more adverse outcomes than unmarried women workers.

  • However, married men workers experienced fewer of these outcomes than unmarried men workers.

  • Women’s concentration in paid and unpaid care duties were the major explanation for gender gaps.

Ham, S. (2021). Explaining Gender Gaps in the South Korean Labor Market During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Feminist Economics, 1-19.

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