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Korea sees fastest growth of male part-timers in OECD

Number of men working part-time has surged since 2017

Nov. 9, 2021 - 17:10 By Kim Yon-se
Headquarters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris (OECD)
SEJONG -- South Korea saw the portion of employed men working as part-timers exceed the 10 percent mark in 2020, a first since the nation started compiling relevant data in 1989.

Further, since 2016, Korea has been No. 1 in the growth of male part-time workers among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to the OECD, part-timers accounted for 10.43 percent of all employed men last year. The figure was an increase of 3.67 percentage points from 2016.

After ranging between 6.68 percent and 6.77 percent from 2014 to 2016 (during the Park Geun-hye administration), the figure rapidly rose to 7.34 percent in 2017, and hit 7.81 percent in 2018 and 8.9 percent in 2019.
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)
The OECD defined part-time employment as people who usually work -- whether as employees or self-employed -- less than 30 hours per week in their main job.

This may suggest that more and more Korean men have endured relatively weak job security in recent years, as they failed to find regular employment.

Some local researchers, on the other hand, claim that the rising part-time employment rate can be attributed to active participation in “second” economic activities among retirees in their 60s or over.

The figure contrasted to a declining trend in part-timer figures among a large portion of OECD members. Of the total 38 members, the French-based organization analyzed 2020 figures for 35 countries, excluding Australia, Germany and the US.

While 16 of the 35 countries posted positive growth over the corresponding 2016-2020 period, 19 countries saw the percentage of part-timers among male employees slide.

Ireland recorded the biggest drop, by 3.1 percentage points from 12.15 percent to 9.05 percent. Portugal saw the second-biggest drop by 2.16 percentage points, while Slovakia had minus 1.43 and Spain had minus 1.25.

Among the next on the list were Greece with minus 1.18 percentage points, Denmark with minus 0.89, the UK with minus 0.65, Israel with minus 0.59, Italy with minus 0.46 and France with minus 0.15.

Except for Korea (3.67), Japan (3.1) and Turkey (2.51), the positive growth held by the other 13 members stayed less than 2 percentage points.

Meanwhile, OECD data showed that the portion of part-time employment of all Korean employed women came to 22.1 percent in 2020. The figure rose by 5.69 percentage points from 2016, exceeding the growth pace, posted among Korean men.

Korean women had recorded the fastest growth among OECD members in part-timer job percentage during the mid- and late-2010s.

In a similar vein, Korea ranked No. 2 in the portion of temporary workers of the total salaried jobs in 2020, with 26.1 percent, among 36 OECD members. Of the total 38 members, two -- Israel and Mexico -- were not included in the organization’s analysis.

Korea ranked fourth by this metric in 2019 at 24.4 percent, and seventh at 21.2 percent in 2018.

A temporary employee refers to a salaried worker whose job has a predetermined termination date, according to the OECD definition. People in this category -- alongside part-time or contract workers -- are classified as “nonregular workers” in Korea.

For the corresponding two years, Korea overtook the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Spain and Chile in its reliance on temporary labor.

The figure for Korea was quite high compared to the European Union average of 13.6 percent, the OECD average of 11.4 percent and the Group of Seven average of 8.6 percent as of 2020.

It was also far higher than 15.4 percent in Japan, 11.6 percent in Canada, 7.6 percent in New Zealand, 6.5 percent in Costa Rica and 5.3 percent in the UK.