By Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) — The number of South Korean workers who took time off to take care of their children rose 18.6 percent in 2022 from a year earlier on the back of more government support for parental leave, government data showed Monday.
A total of 131,087 workers took parental leave to take care of their children last year, up 20,532 from the previous year, according to the data by the Ministry of Employment and Labor.
Women accounted for 71.1 percent of the workers on leave last year, far outnumbering their male counterparts, the ministry said.
Yet, the number of male workers going on paternity leave gradually increased to account for 28.9 percent of the total last year, the data showed. The percentage was a mere 8.5 percent in 2016.
The increase can be attributed to more couples raising their children together and policies encouraging men to take leave, such as increased monthly allowances, it said.
The country first introduced parental leave in 1987 for mothers only with a child under 1 year old, before it was offered to fathers in 1995. But the allowance system was not properly established until the early to mid-2000s.
In an effort to encourage more people to take parental leave, the government introduced a system in 2014 of giving a larger monthly allowance if the second parent of a family takes time off after their spouse uses up all of his or her paternity leave.
Since last year, the maximum allowance for those taking such parental leave for the first time for their family was increased from 1.2 million won (US$972) per month to 1.5 million won (US$1,216) per month.
Also since last year, the upper limit of the first three-month allowances for a couple either taking their leave together or in order was increased to 100 percent of their ordinary wages. This policy requires for their child to be less than 12 months old.
The data showed that the average length of parental leave was nine months last year.
A total of 64.3 percent of parents went on leave when their children were younger than 12 months old, followed by when they were 7 or 8 years old with 13.6 percent, around the time they start school, the ministry said.
Many parents also took advantage of a policy that allows them to reduce working hours for up to a year while raising a child under the age of 9, the ministry said. Their number totaled 19,466 last year, up 16.6 percent from a year earlier.