Employment Support for Career-Interrupted Women
Ministry of Gender Equality and Family

The Problem

<Enhancing Female Workforce Participation for Sustainable Development>
The Republic of Korea is likely face severe labor shortage due to its low birth rate and ageing population. A consensus has been reached over the past ten years that increasing women’s participation in the labor force is urgently needed to ensure sustainable
development. In particular, those who quit the labor market due to childbirth and childrearing and remain economically inactive must be encouraged to reenter the labor market.

<Female Career Interruption and Obstacles in Reentering the Labor Market>
Female labor-force participation in Korea reflects a so-called ‘M-Curve’ – women in their early and mid-30s exit the labor market due to childbirth and childrearing. Such career interruption hampers women’s chances to develop professional skills and experiences.
Women in 40s and 50s have difficulty in reentering the labor market because of the lack of professional experiences.

<Inadequate Infrastructure to Support Career-Interrupted Women’s Re-employment>
Previously, government efforts to assist the unemployed in finding jobs pivoted around public employment centers. However, the centers focused mostly on men and temporary unemployment and thus saw limited success in assisting women in their job searches.
Although some local facilities, such as women’s vocational centers and women’s community centers, were easily accessible to women, they did not provide comprehensive employment services. In particular, private-run women’s vocational centers focused on short-term vocational programs for profit, and women’s community centers offer mostly home economics courses with limited employment opportunities.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
A priority policy agenda of the newly inaugurated Lee Myung-bak Administration was establishing and operating centers overseeing employment services targeted at career-interrupted women. In 2009, 72 Women’s Reemployment Centers (“Saeil Centers”) began operation nationwide to provide employment support services for career-interrupted women.

Saeil Centers provide comprehensive and customized employment support services, from career counseling and vocational training to job placement and post-employment follow-up services.
Career counseling is given first to identify job seekers’ aptitude, experiences and wants. The results are then used to find a suitable vocational program or work position.

Consultation is also provided to address psychological drawbacks found among career-interrupted women, such as low self-esteem and unrealistic expectations.
Taking into consideration the circumstances of career-interrupted women, a wide range of vocational courses are provided, including social work, emerging local industries, and specialized jobs, which are relatively accessible to women. These courses help not only improve career-interrupted women’s professional skills, but also boost their confidence, after a long absence from the workforce. The vocational curriculum also requires to a work ethic workshop to encourage professionalism. In 2012, new vocational curricula were developed based on an analysis of regional characteristics, conducted in major cities and eight provinces. Each Saeil Center has added these new vocational programs to their curriculum to assist career-interrupted women in making inroads to growing industries in their areas.
To bring about actual results in career-interrupted women’s job placement, Saeil Centers have been reaching out to both potential employers and female job seekers. Job counseling is provided at places frequented by women, such as major supermarkets,
and Saeil Center employees visit businesses to inform employers and gather hiring information. Career-interrupted women often have difficulty in securing employment on their own because of their age and lack of professional experience. Therefore, Saeil Centers accompany them to job interviews if requested, and subsidize companies hiring ‘Saeil Interns’ for up to six months to help them gain work experience.
Post-employment services are also in place to prevent those who have secured a job from leaving again. Saeil Centers run daycare clinics and subsidizes companies to promote women-friendly corporate culture and improve working conditions for women.
These services have made it easier for career-interrupted women to find employment opportunities commensurate with their strengths and capabilities. In fact, increasingly more women are employed every year through Saeil Centers, from 67,519 in 2009 to 101,980 in 2010, and 117,370 in 2011.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The Women’s Resources Development Division at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF), together with private sector experts on gender affairs, have proposed to the 17th Presidential Transition Committee that increasing women’s workforce participation requires customized employment support services targeting at career-interrupted women.

The proposal was accepted and reflected in the priority policy goals of the then new Lee administration. In April 2008, MOGEF agreed with the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) to carry out the proposal, and two months later, ratified the “Act on Promotion of Economic Activities of Career-Interrupted Women” (“Act”) together.
Two ministries have agreed to split the budget and operational responsibilities. MOEL finances and manages career counseling and related programs, and all other activities to support career-interrupted women’s employment will be financed and carried out
by MOGEF, including outreach employment services, vocational training and post-employment support programs.
In accordance with the Act, local governments are responsible for managing Saeil Centers located in their areas, and support certain programs with matching funds, such as outreach services and post-employment support services.

MOGEF has consulted various stakeholders, including local governments, NGOs, presidents of women’s facilities, experts from the private sector, to designate Saeil Centers and program the particulars. In 2009, the first 72 Saeil Centers were designated among existing women’s facilities, such as women’s community centers (public) and women’s vocational centers(private).

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
<Act on Promotion of Economic Activities of Career-Interrupted Women and Five-Year Plans>
The Ministry of Gender Equality (MOGEF) and the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) have enacted the “Act on Promotion of Economic Activities of Career-Interrupted Women” and subsidiary legislation, to promote and support career-interrupted women’s workforce participation in a comprehensive and systematic manner.
In accordance with the Act, “Five-Year Plans on Promotion of Economic Activities of Career-Interrupted Women” are established, which are then used to formulate yearly implementation plans and projects for central government ministries and local governments.

<Strengthening Infrastructure for Employment Support>
Instead of building new facilities, existing women’s facilities, such as women’s community centers and women’s vocational centers, are designated as “Saeil Centers” to tap into the staff’s accumulated knowledge and experience. As of 2012, a total of 110 Saeil Centers are operating nationwide.
In 2010 a contract agency began operating to provide centralized support for Saeil Centers to further enhance their service quality. The support center provides training for employees at Saeil Centers, consults them on management and other issues, and evaluates their performance.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
This initiative to encourage and support career-interrupted women’s workforce participation began as a priority policy agenda of the 17th Presidential Administration upon inauguration.

<Preparation Stage>
In April 2008, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) agreed with the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) to carry out together the initiative, and ratified the “Act on Promotion of Economic Activities of Career-Interrupted Women” in June the same year. The Act stipulates that “Five-Year Plans on Promotion of Economic Activities of Career-Interrupted Women” be established and provides legislative ground
for the establishment and management of Women’s Reemployment Centers, or Saeil Centers.
In accordance with the Act, MOGEF and MOEL together prepared the 2010-2014 Plan on Promotion of Economic Activities of Career-Interrupted Women in December 2009.
The Five-Year Plan covers policies and programs to be carried out by various ministries and agencies to support career-interrupted women’s employment and retention, and requires the said ministries and agencies to establish yearly plans to implement the particulars.

<Development Stage>
In 2009, guidelines to designate and manage Saeil Centers were prepared. The first 72 Saeil Centers began operation.
In 2010, 13 additional Saeil Centers were added to a total of 85. A contract agency was introduced to assist with centers’ capacity-building, by providing consulting and training for center staff and evaluating each center’s operation and services provided.
The number of Saeil Centers nationwide reached 98 in 2011 and 110 in 2012.

<Furtherance Stage>
Now in its third year, Saeil Centers are entering a steady phase. The focus of the initial stage was on external development, by strengthening infrastructure and expanding employment opportunities. Starting this year, Saeil Centers are widening their support services by adding specialized vocational training courses and strengthening post-employment services, not only to enhance job prospects for career-interrupted women and but also to help them retain employment.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
<Overcoming Corporate Bias against Career-Interrupted Women>
Career-interrupted women in their 40s comprise the largest age group of visitors to Saeil Centers. Businesses are reluctant to hire them because many of them lack professional experience, and those with previous careers have often not been working for an extended period.
Centers provide the Saeil Internship and vocational training programs to encourage businesses to hire career-interrupted women.
Centers subsidize the companies hiring Saeil Interns to change the corporate prejudice against career-interrupted women, as well as to give these women real-world experience.
The results have been only positive: the majority of Saeil Interns have secured a position in the companies they completed their internship in. In particular, in 2011 the post-internship employment rate reached 95.1% (3,346 out of 3,518 participants).
In addition, Saeil Centers research and analyze local labor demand, and set up vocational training curricula in the hiring fields based on the findings. For each training curriculum, a Regional Employment Cooperation Network (RECN) is set up composed of interested local businesses, public and private job placement services, local government organizations and others to effectively link training with actual employment.

<Barriers to Career-Interrupted Women’s Job Retention and Policy Solutions>
Many of the newly employed women are more prone to leaving employment if problems arise in the work place, or balancing work and home responsibilities becomes too difficult.
To help them retain employment, Saeil Centers run post-employment support programs to 1) foster female-friendly corporate culture; 2) lessen childrearing burdens; and 3) assist in retaining employment and improving career prospects.
- Companies that have pledged to protect maternity, ensure gender equality in hiring,and increase women employees are designated as “Female-Friendly Businesses.” These companies receive training aimed at enhancing gender awareness in the work place, such as information sessions on flexible work hours and workshops on gender equality in work place and sexual harassment prevention. In the case of small businesses, partial subsidies may be provided to install women’s bathrooms, lounges and breast-feeding rooms.
- Saeil Centers provide after-school classes and care services for the children of Center participants, and in some cases operate temporary in-house daycare clinics.
- Starting this year, Saeil Centers also work to improve the career-interrupted women’s retention rate. The employed graduates of Saeil Centers receive labor counseling and customized job coaching services to continue building their professional capacity and overcome possible difficulties encountered in the work place.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
<Resources> The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) underwent organizational restructuring in May 2009. The Career-Interrupted Women's Economic Promotion
Division was added to oversee policies and programs promoting career-interrupted women's employment. In February 2010, the five-member division added four additional staff positions.
For its part, the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) has assigned Women's Employment Policy Division staff members to be exclusively responsible for promoting and supporting career-interrupted women's workforce participation, and established positions responsible for related policy works and projects in each of the 80 Employment Centers across the country.
A work division in each city and provincial government has been entrusted with the function of supporting career-interrupted women’s reentrance to the labor market, and one or more staff employees are assigned to overseeing the planning and implementation of
related projects.
Career planners and employment counselors are assigned to each Saeil Center to help career-interrupted women reenter the labor force. As of today, the 110 Saeil Centers nationwide are staffed with 690 career planners and 200 employment counselors.
Budget responsibilities for the initiative are shared among MOGEF, MOEL and local governments. In 2012, MOGEF takes the largest budget share of 29 billion KRW
(equivalent to 26.7 million USD), MOEL contributes 7.4 billion KRW (equiv. to 6.8 million USD) and local governments provide 12.2 billion KRW (equiv. to 11.2 million USD).
In 2012, each center received an average of 349.9 million KRW (equiv. to 322,000 USD) from MOGEF alone, totaling 29 billion KRW (equivalent to 26.7 million USD).
On average, a Saeil Center finances 43 Interns, four vocational training curricula, personnel expenses for five career planners, and post-employment support programs (40 million KRW, or equiv. to 36,832 USD).
Technical Resources The central support agency provides consulting services to Saeil Centers and training modules to their employees. The support center also assesses the project capacity of each
center by reviewing its operation and services provided.

<Key Benefits>
Despite its short history, Saeil Centers have taken firm root as the central employment support organization for women by successfully matching job-seeking women with opportunities fitting for their aptitudes and expectations. Career-interrupted women no longer find themselves in the blind spot of the employment support system that focused mainly on men and temporary unemployment.
Between 2009 and 2011, a total of 287,000 women became employed through Saeil Centers. Initiative-linked employment has been increasing every year, from 67,519 in 2009, and 101,980 in 2010, and 117,370 in 2011. The employment rate (number of employees/number of registered job seekers * 100%) is also on the rise, from 51.8% in 2009 to 62.1% in 2010, and 62.8% in 2011. This figure is especially promising when compared the national female employment rate (the proportion of economically active members in
the working-age female population) of 47.4% in 2009 and 47.8% in 2010.
From 2009 to 2011, 13,517 women participated in Saeil Internships working at various businesses. 11,413 (87% of participants) completed the internship, and 10,771 of them secured a job afterwards, marking an impressive post-internship employment rate of 93.2%.
Vocational Programs: from 2009 to 2011, a total of 20,718 women received vocational training, with 18,213 of them completing the curriculum (87.9%). The 59.1% (10,771 women) who completed the vocational program found employment afterwards.
Besides these impressive figures, support programs have been qualitatively successful as well. According to a survey conducted by the Korea Institute of Public Finance (KIPF), 93.3% of respondents expressed satisfaction with the one-stop employment support services available at Saeil Centers.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The initiative to support career-interrupted women’s employment began with the understanding that increasing female workforce participation is needed to sustain growth in the Republic of Korea, which will face a labor shortage if the current trend of decreasing birth rate and ageing population continues. An applicant act was ratified to provide a sustainable legislative basis for relevant policies and projects to be carried out in a stable and steady manner.
Despite its short history, the initiative has already produced impressive results.
Accordingly, more budgets are provided for the initiative. This year, MOGEF has allocated to the initiative 28,269 million KRW (equivalent to 26.1 million USD), up from 23,260 KRW (equiv. to 21.4 million USD) in 2011 and 19,997 million KRW (equiv. to
18.4 million USD) in 2010. The budgets are projected to continue increasing.
As of today, a total of 110 Saeil Centers are operating to provide sustained employment support services for women.

Similar to in the Republic of Korea, women in many countries are responsible for the majority of childrearing and the burden of housework. Various measures to prevent women's career-interruption a priori are already in place in a number of countries, such as increasing awareness of unequal sharing of family responsibilities and creating a work environment conducive to balancing work and family duties. In comparison, policies and programs to assist those who are already out of job ex post facto are rare. For countries with a significant number of women experiencing unwanted career interruption,providing post-interruption support may be particularly useful to bring women back to the labor force.
MOGEF supports developing country partners in various ways, including through technical transfer. As part of these efforts, MOGEF launched in 2011 an ODA (Official
Development Assistance) project to support establishing a women's vocational development center in Can Tho, Vietnam. Can Tho’s Women's Vocational Development Center is now in its second year and a
successful operation.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
<Comprehensive Employment Support Services Tailored to the Needs and Characteristics of Career-Interrupted Women>
The success of this initiative can, in large part, be attributed to the consideration given to the specific needs of women with no previous career or interrupted careers due to pregnancy, birth and parenting, during the processes of project planning and implementation.
The existing private and public employment support models assign job placement and vocational training functions to different organizations. Such a separated structure does not pose much problem to the temporarily unemployed, who can find work without vocational training. However, this system has limited success in finding employment for women who have been out of the workforce for a long period, or who have minimal professional experience. These women need both vocational training and job placement services.
Also, many career-interrupted women exhibit lower levels of professionalism and have had few professional capacities. Thus, job placement services must be accompanied by vocational training and internship opportunities, to enhance their work ethics and capabilities. In addition, continued support must be provided to help them retain employment, for these women are more susceptible to another career interruption if work and family duties become incompatible.
Taking these circumstances into consideration, Saeil Centers provide comprehensive one-stop services to encourage and better assist career-interrupted women with finding and retaining employment.

<Utilizing Private and Public Infrastructure for Employment Support:>
Instead of building new facilities, the initiative designates existing government and private facilities as Saeil Centers.
Private women's vocational development centers have an established history and expertise of providing classes targeted at women, and display a high level of understanding of female job seekers. They are also well known and accessible to women in the areas.
Public women's community centers enjoy reputation as specious and quality facilities, and provide easy access to local women, who have been benefiting from a wide range of home economics courses.
Utilizing existing women's facilities also helps avoid extra financial burden that would have been incurred from erecting new facilities. By taking advantage of the staff's accumulated experience and know-hows in running programs targeted at women, Saeil Cetners ensures the high quality of service delivery. By combining government budgets with existing public and private resources, the three-year-old initiative has already successfully built an employment support infrastructure for career-interrupted women and provided them with much needed services.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Gender Equality and Family
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Eun-hee Lee
Title:   Director, Career-Interrupted Women’s Economic Prom  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-2075-4671/82-2-2075-4789
Institution's / Project's Website:   http://www.mogef.go.kr
E-mail:   esprit@korea.kr  
Address:   6th Fl., Premier Place Bldg. Cheonggyechonno 8, Jung-Gu
Postal Code:   100-177
City:   Seoul
State/Province:   Seoul

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