Employment and motherhood entry in South Korea

Li Ma, Stockholm University

This study investigates the dynamic changes in motherhood entry by employment status and labor market characteristics in accordance with Korea’s social and economic change. Data used for analysis come from Korea Labor and Income Panel Study (KLIPS), longitudinal data capturing 10 waves of the survey from 1998 to 2007. Event history analysis is applied to examine the motherhood entry. The study discovers that motherhood entry in South Korea has been declining since the early 1980s. The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis further exacerbated the decline. Estimation from the main effect models show that compared to women who stayed in the labor market, women who left the labor market for family life were more likely to become a mother and women who had never been employed were less likely to become a mother. Among women who stayed in the labor market, wage earners had slightly higher motherhood transition rates than non-wage earners. Further, amid wage earners, full-time workers, those who work at public sectors, SOE or government foundations and high-income earners were at relatively higher risks of becoming a mother. Interaction model estimation reveals that over time, motherhood entry of women who stayed in the labor market has remained stable, albeit declining. Quitting jobs for pregnancy is becoming less and less common. During economic downturn, women with no employment experience might readjust their life career and opt for becoming a mother first before entering the labor market. At the 1997 financial crisis, motherhood entry for both stable job holders (full-timers, those working at public sectors or government foundations) and unstable job holders dropped. But comparatively, the drop for stable job holders was not as steep. Low income earners had higher likelihood of becoming a mother during good economic situations. But at difficult situations, they were more likely to sidestep motherhood entry.

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