In a span of six decades, Korea’s economic development has
made it the world’s ninth-largest economy. A new OECD book, “Rejuvenating
Korea: Policies for a Changing Society,” reviews how the government is
responding to a changing society.
Koreans are among the best-educated and longest-lived people
in the world. Nevertheless, about 15% live in poverty (often the elderly),
competition in education can lead to hardship for both students (long hours
spent in private tutoring) and parents (expense), and a dual labor market (jobs
with security vs. short contracts and lower pay) makes it hard for some to
realize their full potential. In particular, Korea’s culture of long working
hours can impede women from rising in the workplace and thus discourage young
couples from starting a family. Korea has the highest rate of population aging
across the OECD.
Well aware of the challenges, the government has increased
public investment since 2000 tenfold in areas such as day care and
kindergartens – putting Korea on a par with the European Nordic countries – and
providing paid child-care leave. As of now, however, only about a quarter of
Korean women and 5% of men are taking full advantage of the parental leave.
The OECD recommends that the government work to lower the
costs of education, increase vocational education and apprenticeships, reduce
labor-market dualism, monitor legislation capping the work week at 52 hours,
shrink the pay gap between men and women, and increase financial support to
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