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Report on gender equity falls short: activists

Say rise in employment does not translate to an increase in social status, equality

Report on gender equity falls short: activists
Women celebrate International Women's Day last year
Stephen Hong, Seoul

June 28, 2012

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Women’s rights activists have panned a new government report on the improvement of women’s social status, saying it fails to adequately address persistent gender equity failures in the country. The report, released on Tuesday by Statistics Korea in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, states that the number of women employed in professional sectors and graduated from universities has risen. Women’s college entrance rates have surpassed that of men’s since 2009, according to the report, with 75 percent of female high school students entering university, as opposed to 70.2 percent of male students. The report also noted rises in the percentage of female doctors and lawmakers, among other traditionally male-dominated professions over the last two decades. Bae Jin-kyung, secretary-general of the Korean Women Workers Association, told yesterday that it was “unreasonable” to say an increase in women’s participation in professional fields constituted an improvement of status in society. “You can say the polarization of women’s jobs is deepening,” she said, adding “more than 60 percent of part-time workers are women who on average earn 50 percent less than men.” Hwang Hae-bum, manager of Statistics Korea, said a rise in women’s education has allowed them to enter professional fields such as education, medicine and law in greater numbers, thereby increasing their social status. But while activists note that this trend is “encouraging,” they say that significant challenges remain. Kwon Park Mi-suk, an activist with the group Korean Womenlink, said companies still discriminate on the basis of sex, forcing many women to seek only those fields where “they can join in through a fair exam.” She added: “Gender equality in the labor market still has a long way to go.” The report says that in 2010 women comprised 6.3 percent of high-ranking public officers, though they represent 49.9 percent of Korea’s population of 50 million.
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