The Ministry of Labor announced a five-year plan to expand childcare benefits for working women.
Under the plan, companies will receive monthly payments of 300,000 won ($250) by the government for every worker taking maternity leave, a rise from the current 200,000 won. The companies will aslo be asked to establish training programs for workers filling the temporary vacuum.
The number of workers to benefit from the programs will also be enlarged. Under the new plan, workers with over 180 days of service with children under three years of age will be able to apply for maternity leave. Until now, only workers with over one year of work experience who have children under one year of age qualify for the leave.
The ministry will also encourage companies to provide childcare facilities at the workplace and establish clear guidelines to determine whether women workers are getting the same financial treatment as their male counterparts for similar jobs.
"Only 48.8 percent of South Korean women are economically active, a rate much lower than countries such as Sweden and the United States, which have rates of 75.5 percent and 64.9 percent, respectively," a ministry official said.
"With South Korea becoming an aging society and the birth rate dropping steadily, the need for a female workforce is growing every year," he said.
The ministry expects to pull up the working rate of women to 55 percent by 2007, when the plan is completed.