From she-cession to she-covery [BOK Issue Note 2023-17]

Macro Economy
she-cession women employment pandemic recovery
Research Department(02-759-4434)

Unlike typical recessions that usually have a severe impact on men's employment, the recent recession triggered by the pandemic had a greater negative effect on women, leading to a phenomenon known as "she-cession" (she+recession). The "she-cession" was primarily due to significant job losses in contact-intensive industries where women tend to work, as a result of social distancing measures and increased childcare duties resulting from the closures of schools and daycare centers.

However, women are now rejoining the labor force at a faster pace than men, leading to a reverse phenomenon known as "she-covery" (she+recovery) in the labor market. Specifically, women in their 20s and 30s, those with higher education and married women are driving this "she-covery" phenomenon. The robust labor force participation of young and well-educated women is in stark contrast to men. This trend is attributed to changes in labor demand across sectors, such as digital transformation, following the pandemic.

Additionally, the pandemic has accelerated changes in working conditions (such as the spread of remote work and flexible working arrangements) and societal norms (including increased sharing of childcare responsibilities within couples), which have facilitated the participation of married women in the labor market.

The recent recovery in female employment is seen as a continuation of a long-term upward trend observed prior to the pandemic. This suggests that the current surge in female employment, fueled by factors like the increase in unmarried or delayed marriages, declining birth rates, higher levels of female education, and the prevalence of flexible work arrangements, is expected to endure as a structural phenomenon for a significant period.

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