Chung Hyun-back, who has been tasked with improving Korea’s plummeting birth rate, knows how hard it is to work as a Korean woman. It was she who chose her career over getting married and starting a family. And just like her, millions of young women in this country have come together to deny motherhood, also known as “birth strike”.
Accordingly, after more than a year of trying to convince many Korean women to have children, Chung Hyun-back raised the most prominent problem that made her fail: “It’s our patriarchal culture”.
65% of Korean women refuse to have children
The “dead point” of the birth rate
A 2022 survey showed that 65% of women in South Korea do not want to have children. Meanwhile, this rate in men accounts for about 48%. This is the most obvious manifestation of adults in this country wanting to completely avoid marriage and the pressures that come with it, thereby giving rise to another term in this country called “marriage strike”. .
This trend is said to be “strangling” South Korea as the country recorded the lowest birth rate in the world for three consecutive years, with the average woman of childbearing age having less than one child.
The severe drop in the birth rate caused this country to soon fall into a demographic crisis
After the Covid-19 pandemic took place, the birth rate here even reached the “dead point” much earlier than expected when the number of deaths outnumbered the number of births in 2020.
Now, about half of the country’s 228 cities, counties and districts are at risk of losing a lot of residents. Day care centers and kindergartens are being converted into nursing homes. Gynecological clinics are closing, and funeral homes are opening. At Seoksan Elementary School, in Gunwi District, the number of students has dropped from 700 to 4 and can’t even form a soccer team.
Many schools in Korea have no students
Notably, Korea’s demographic crisis was once unthinkable. Especially in the late 1960s, the average woman would have six children. However, over the past 20 years or so, women have started to give birth less and less. New data from South Korea’s statistics agency puts the birth rate at just 0.79 as of the third quarter of 2022.
Young Koreans have obvious reasons for not getting married, including the sky-high cost of raising children, soaring house prices, poor job prospects and stressful working hours.
The women are also fed up with this traditional society’s unfulfilled expectations if they become wives and mothers. Many Korean women who shirk from dating, marriage, and childbearing are sick of rampant sexism.
Unbelievable expectations are placed on the shoulders of Korean women
According to protest banners, Korean women are refusing to become “child-producing machines” as an act of retaliation against an unequal and overly patriarchal society.
Jiny Kim (30 years old), an ordinary office worker in Seoul who intends to have no children, said: “The birth strike is women’s revenge against a society that places overwhelming burdens on us and disrespects us.”
Despite the government’s efforts to invest 280 trillion won ($210 billion) in fertility promotion programs, such as a monthly allowance for parents of infants, many women say no.
The burden is too great
The aforementioned financial support certainly cannot help Korean women rethink their decision not to have children. For them, stifling gender norms are ubiquitous in everyday life.
Married women in Korea have to shoulder the bulk of the housework and take care of the children, leaving mothers under such pressure that many give up their career ambitions. Even in dual-income households, wives spend more than 3 hours a day on housework while Korean men spend only 54 minutes.
Many people have to quit their jobs, are discriminated against at the company because of having children
Discrimination against mothers by employers themselves is also unreasonably pervasive. In particular, the scandalous case from the country’s leading baby formula maker caused a stir when this business was accused of pressuring and forcing female employees to quit after becoming pregnant.
And yet, gender-based violence is “incredibly widespread” here. According to Human Rights Watch, in 2021, every 1.4 days or less, a woman is murdered or targeted.
But women don’t passively accept toxic masculinity. They have rallied, from Asia’s most successful #MeToo movement to groups like “4K,” which means “4 nos”: no dating, no sex, no marriage, and no parenting. . The country’s feminist movements won’t legalize abortion and harsher punishments for criminals filming pornography.
#MeToo movement helps women speak up for equal rights
Obviously, many countries like Japan and the United States, which also have a sharp drop in birth rates, are facing similar problems in terms of regimes, principles of family division, and imbalanced childcare. Korea. The same goes for China, which has just recorded its first drop in birth rates in years, where Korean-inspired women have started their own “4 nos” movement.
In contrast, countries with good family policies, such as Sweden, which recognize same-sex couples, such as France, have been more successful in stabilizing or even increasing the number of births after a difficult period. on demographics.
The United Nations predicts that Korea’s population of 51 million will halve before the end of the century. Therefore, the next step of the government of this country on gender equality, the interests and safety of women is the most important issue.
Source: NY Times