Officer worker Kim Dong-min, 34, who tied the knot in January, had long dreamed of mornings with his wife. He imagined that she would wake him up with a cup of coffee, prepare breakfast and pack him a box of fruits for a snack. In reality, his wife wakes up, grabs juice from the refrigerator and rushes to the office while touching up her makeup on the subway.
“I think it would be too boring to stay at home as a housewife,” his wife had said to him.
Kim’s ideal morning is becoming less conventional in South Korea, with more than two thirds of 300,000 married couples last year consisting of wives who work, according to statistics released Monday.
Statistics Korea said that more couples are working together to make a living, mainly to secure double incomes amid rising economic burdens as well as a higher employment rate among women who are of marriageable age.
The number of women who got married while unemployed was 102,915 last year, a 4.7 percent drop from the year before. The number has been dropping since 2011, according to Statistics Korea. The decline was 4.2 percent in 2011, 8.6 percent in 2012, 6.3 percent in 2013 and 10.2 percent in 2014.
The ratio of marriages involving unemployed women also continued to fall, with it making up 34.0 percent of all marriages last year, compared to 54.0 percent in 2005.
Statistics Korea explained that the trend is also attributable to more people choosing to get married later in life.
According to data, in 2015 the average age of women and men who got married for the first time was 30 years old and 32.6 years old, respectively. Meanwhile, among women in their late 20s and early 30s, 68.6 percent and 59.8 percent were employed, respectively. The figures were at 63 percent and 48.6 percent respectively in 2005.
“With the continuing economic crisis, marrying at an early age seems like a loss to me, since I would have to contribute my time and money to my new family including my parents-in-law,” said a 29-year-old office worker surnamed Kim.
Analysts pointed out that as women become better educated and enter the workforce, they have greater desire to embrace both family and work.
“Unlike conventional thought, the main nurturer of a child does not necessarily have to be a woman,” child psychology therapist Kwon Yoon-soon told The Korea Herald.
She said, “The quality of time spent with children is more important than the number of hours spent at home nurturing. It is definitely possible for the family to benefit from a working mother as long as they can manage a stable source of nurturing.”
In this way, the social pressure felt by involuntary stay-at-home mothers can also be prevented, she added.
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org)