Volume 31 - Article 18 | Pages 511–552

Economic crisis and women’s labor force return after childbirth: Evidence from South Korea

By Li Ma

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Date received:31 Oct 2013
Date published:29 Aug 2014
Word count:10646
Keywords:Asian financial crisis, career prospects, human capital accumulation, labor force return after childbirth, social policy reform, South Korea


Background: Most research on women’s labor force return after childbirth concentrates on industrialized countries in the West; the link between economic swings and mothers’ work-return behavior is rarely addressed. This study closes these gaps by focusing on South Korea, a developed society in East Asia that has in recent decades witnessed increases in female labor force participation and dramatic economic ups and downs. This is the first relevant study on South Korea.

Objective: This study examines how women’s labor force return after childbirth (with and without career interruption) and their career prospects upon work return varied before, during, and after the Asian financial crisis in South Korea.

Methods: Logistic and hazard regression models were applied to the Korea Labor and Income Panel Study (KLIPS waves 1-10).

Results: The study reveals an increase in women’s immediate work return after childbirth without career interruption since the 1980s. The Asian financial crisis boosted this immediate return pattern. The implementation of job-protected maternity leave further contributed to this pattern. Women who underwent career interruption at first birth were also more likely to re-enter the labor market during and after the crisis than before. Downward occupational moves were especially common during the period of financial crisis.

Conclusions: The results suggest that the Asian financial crisis triggered a noticeable change in women’s post-birth work-return behavior. The economic volatility pushed mothers to hold onto their role in the labor force more strongly than before.

Author's Affiliation

Li Ma - Karlstads Universitet, Sweden [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Childlessness, sex composition of children, and divorce risks in China
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» Entry into first marriage in China
Volume 37 - Article 36

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