University of Sussex
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The study of maternal employment in South Korea: cultural and structural constraints

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posted on 2023-06-08, 15:02 authored by Jong-Soon Ahn
This thesis explores factors in the low rates of maternal employment in South Korea through a quantitative analysis of a large-scale survey dataset, the Korea Labour and Income Panel Study (KLIPS). This thesis elaborates Western debates and theories of women’s labour market participation within Korean contexts, develops hypotheses on a theoretical basis accommodating both individual factors such as human capital, children and spouse factors and structural factors like the workplace and class practices, and examines them through descriptive, cross-sectional linear and logistic regression analyses. The thesis finds that mothers’ decisions toward paid work are responsive to children’s ages, implying that lifestyle preferences adapt in accordance with the family’s life cycle. Also, it is found that precarious employment and a long work-hour culture contribute to career interruptions while parental welfare such as child care leave and provision have a negative association. The thesis finds social class to be a critical factor linked to mothers’ labour force participation. Middle class mothers tend to delay their career by trading off time for childrearing, including attending to children’s educational needs, whereas lower class mothers tend to return more quickly to work. A key finding is that whilst married women’s labour market behaviour appears to be explained in part by individual factors, such as work experience and the presence of children (as neo-classical theorists have argued), this thesis strongly suggests that structural factors are key to explaining the low level of maternal employment in Korea with a gendered labour market and welfare regime – such as the long work-hour culture and low parental welfare – sitting alongside social class as primary explanatory factors.


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  • Sociology and Criminology Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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