Many South Korean women want a better balance between work and home.
We spoke to 803 South Korean women to learn more about how they use the Internet to work, learn, communicate and get things done.
Many of our respondents value both their families and their careers. 56% are currently employed, and many want to return to work soon. But balancing work and family is a struggle, especially for mothers.
The women we surveyed are also some of the most active users of the Internet of all the women we surveyed in Asia. They’re interested in more flexible working styles and the digital tools that enable this, even if a smaller percentage use them or believe their employers would provide them.
93% of the South Korean women we surveyed use the Internet every day.
In South Korea, going online is a part of daily life. 72% of our respondents have been online for ten or more years — a greater percentage than their counterparts in Japan or Australia.
They find the Internet useful for information, communication and completing daily tasks.
Many use the Internet for learning and professional development. 87% see a significant correlation between education and success.
“The Internet allows me to improve my working opportunities.”
“The Internet has made it easier for me to further my education or learning.”
The Korean women we spoke to are more likely to use the Internet for formal learning than their counterparts in Australia and Japan.
“The Internet is the best place to learn something formal — such as a course or type of study.”
“The Internet is the best place to learn something informal — such as a recipe.”
“It was very hard to figure out how to [code and use technologies], because there weren’t many resources out there. Now though, we have Google and YouTube, and people from all around the world will answer you.”
Just over half our respondents are currently employed. And many of those who are not employed want to return to work.
Work can be financially and emotionally rewarding. But women with families find it difficult to manage their pressing responsibilities in the office and at home.
Why aren’t they employed now?
Have to take care of family
Can’t find employment right now
Have to prioritize household chores
Find work-life balance too tough
Don’t think it’s appropriate for them to work
No longer want to work
What would make them go back to work?
Contribution is respected and appreciated
Ability to work from home
Mothers face particular difficulty in returning to work.
Many of the mothers in our survey felt caught between career goals and family responsibilities, especially after having children. 83% are mainly or jointly responsible for chores at home, and 76% take care of young children during the day.
Some also feel South Korea’s working culture doesn’t support mothers, and limits how far they can climb.
“It’s difficult for mothers to remain in full-time employment.“
“Society supports working mothers.”
“It is easier for men to progress in the workplace than women.”
"When I was young I wanted to climb up the ladder, but there is a perception that women can’t do this job like men. And after you give birth, it is difficult to climb up this ladder like men.”
— Anonymous, aged 18-23
Despite this, more South Korean mothers we spoke to worked full-time than the women we surveyed in Japan and Australia.
Employment status among mothers:
Employed full time
The women we spoke to value both their professional ambitions and their family lives. But they’re conflicted about what their primary role should be.
“The financial benefits of being a working mother outweigh the potential negatives.”
“Being a working woman means neglecting your family.”
“It is important for women to have a role outside of the home.”
“A woman’s biggest contribution to society is in the home.”
“As long as you have passion and motivation for whatever you’re doing, and for your career, I think that will still get you going.”
Mothers say flexible workplaces could make it easier to cope with their dual responsibilities.
Working from home, freelance or part-time could be ideal for mothers who want to keep working. Many of the women we spoke to are optimistic about this.
“"I believe work will be more flexible in the future, with people able to work part-time or from home.”
“I am interested in companies that actively support work-life balance:”
Though many know about flexible working technologies, interest and usage levels are mixed — particularly for video-conferencing and working from home.
Flexible work arrangements, such as working part time or from home:
52% Aware of existence
37% Currently working this way
73% Interested in it
44% Think employers would be interested
Having access to work related emails outside of the workplace:
85% Aware of existence
60% Currently working this way
51% Interested in it
58% Think employers would be interested
Using file sharing technology to access work documents from home:
86% Aware of existence
46% Currently working this way
50% Interested in it
44% Think employers would be interested
Using video calls to have meetings:
81% Aware of existence
11% Currently working this way
27% Interested in it
30% Think employers would be interested
“When I was in the States…I always had women reporters or professors around me...having a role model really helps, whether it’s just at a local level or on a global level.”
Developing a support system for working mothers is crucial.
Some of the women we interviewed expressed a desire for a community to discuss the issues they faced; be it at the workplace, working freelance, or balancing their home and work lives.
This could enable them to connect with like-minded women, keep up with their male peers, and increase access to entrepreneurial opportunities and support for mothers who want to return to work.
Companies could also use technologies like video-conferencing to make working arrangements more flexible and provide better work-life balance for working mothers.
“Women will be able to work in a way that supports their business. Women will be able to get connected to each other and make the world a better, safer place.”