Women & Family Polict Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government

The Problem

It is urgent to introduce active support program for rapidly increasing women of single person household.
The number of single person households in Seoul has been rapidly growing in the last two decades from 9.1% to 24.4% of the total households and the number of women of single person household is 450,000 accounting for 53% of the total one person household. Despite the sharp increase, the previous major policies in taxation, housing, social safety net, etc have been designed mainly for multi-people household and the single person household has been marginalized in government policy preparation. ‘Comprehensive Support Initiative for Women of Single Person Household’ is the public policy introduced for the first time in Korea to help previously marginalized women of single person households in the public sector and that is an outcome of enthusiasm to achieve a gender-equal, welfare city.
Most women in the single person households have been in trouble in major sectors of the daily lives: labor, housing, poverty, etc.
Coupling with the increase in women in this type of household, most of them suffer from difficulties in main sectors including labor and housing, which is the main reason why the Seoul Metropolitan Government has initiated “Support Initiative for Women of Single Person Household”. Most of single person households are susceptible to unemployment and 43.7% of them are unemployed, three times higher than rates for that of multi-people household. Even those having a job are placed in volatile employment situation as the larger proportion engages in part-time or temporary job positions. Many women of this family type reside in Chonse (lump-sum deposit payment-type) or monthly payment rental housing such as cell-type housing or shared room rent in poor districts. According to 2012 survey on women of single person household, 8 out of 10 women answered they feel anxious about volatile housing condition. In particular, provided that many women living in a large city feel afraid of potential crime, twice higher than men do, it is very critical for these women living alone to have a stable housing. This is particularly problematic in that, in reality, the number of sexual violence reported has increased every year from 3,621 in 2005 to 4,515 in 2010 (24.6 % increase) and these women become an easy and primary target to the sexual violence crime.
There exist other issues threatening the women’s lives such as mental and physical health problem caused by irregular meals or social isolation.
It is urgent to have policies responding to social changes where the one-person household is no longer special.
The rapid increase of the single person households, i.e., that the social trend of living alone is prevalent, requires a shift of paradigm in public policies based on from ‘multi-people’ households to various types of families including ‘single-person household’. In this sense, the ‘Comprehensive Support Initiative for Women of Single Person Household’ is very meaningful in that Seoul has tried to actively respond for the first time to this social changes and needs for policy.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
It helped women of single person household live better life, previously having excluded in contents for policy, as placing them as a major policy agent and objective.
As these women set as a major policy beneficiary while identifying problems they might encounter caused by neglected treatment in policy-making process and actively designing policy support for this matter, it could prepare for a basis to enhance life of women in the single person households living in a city.
It helped about 2,000 women of single person household move in a safer housing environment.
The ‘safe housing environment’ is very critical and badly needed to women of single person household. For this, the Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to provide 2000 small-sized public rental housings by 2015 to single women preferentially to women workers in the low income group and newly distributed for the first time for women college students 168 rental and 75 studio-type housings. Further, it has been trying to distribute various types of housing to secure safe housing environment for these women and renovated government office building into safe housing complex or supplied rental housings around campus.
It created ‘safety zone’ around campus or Gosichon (residential area packed with small-sized studios) where women of the single person households are populated.
It helped set up security devices such as security grille & key, emergency bell, etc., in districts vulnerable to crime. It introduced guideline for crime prevention for future application upon public rental housing construction. Also, it changed street lamps to LED in streets susceptible to crime to make them twice brighter and broaden alleys to build safe environment for women of the single person households. In particular, it signed MOU with the National Police Agency in September 2012 to realize ‘Violence-free Seoul for Women’ and engage in developing preventive measures including reinforcing patrol around districts populated with women of the single person households. It provides educational program teaching theoretical and practical information to prevent violence against women through Violence-zero Academy for women. 100,000 women are expected to benefit from this academy program by 2015.
It also improved women’s health via customized health-care program.
For working women having difficulty in using hospital service for regular business hours, it initiated visiting health care service and 700 women of the single person households have been treated and benefited from the service.
Poverty issue has been addressed by creating more jobs for women of the single person household.
It held job fairs and has created new jobs for these women. It plans to help 200 women to be employed by 2013 through internship program in connection with private companies and to develop employment program in the sector such as Safe-return service for more than 500 job creation. It will provide business set-up support service, with 20 % of its budget prioritizing women of the one-person household.
It helps women in this family type address their own problem by nurturing 100 local communities.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
It was Mayor of Seoul, Won Soon Park, who proposed the ‘Initiative for Single Women’.
Mr. Park raised issues on wrong prediction and responses made by central and local governments on the demographic changes and proposed policy making that would be systematically analyzed and customized for ‘women of single person households’ that show rapid increase and become a major type of household in recent years. For this, the Seoul Mayor hosted online policy forum on June 1st, 2012 on the topic of ‘Happy Seoul for Single Women of One Person Household! What we need?’ and met Seoul citizens to discuss and listen to their various opinions and reflect them on a future policy-making process. He also commissioned the Seoul Foundation of Women and Family to examine the reality of women in the single person household of Seoul based on which to develop working-level policy alternative.
Task force team was formed to support women of the single person household to implement a policy organically connected therewith.
The task force team was composed of experts from various departments for policy making and implementing to pursue well-being through comprehensive support plan in diverse sectors including housing, public health, and labor.
The dedicated team developed policies in each sector and coordinated the different policies effectively. The team met with single women public officers of Seoul to listen to their difficulties and share information and tried to draw more attention and create shared sympathy on this issue so that the perspective of the single woman household could penetrate through entire government departments.

(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.
The project mainly pursues comprehensive support for life of women of the single person households.
Responding to the surging number of women of the single person households and their living situations, it is to support these women who have been marginalized in the society through a new policy designed differently from the previous multi-people household-targeted policy-making to ease their anxiety and difficulties in a comprehensive way.
Its strategy is to give support to 6 sectors from housing, safety, health, job, community, and relieving anxiety and inconvenience.
It categorizes single women’s needs into six sectors including housing, safety, health, job, community activities, resolving inconvenience and anxiety to establish separate initiative corresponding to each major need. For each policy sector, it has created and implemented subprojects: supply housing to women of the single person household such as expansion of small-sized rental housing, create safe environment from violence and crime,, provide customized health care service, create more jobs specialized, promote local community activities, render general service to relieve inconvenience, etc.
It set up strategies and a goal driven from the bottom-up by policy beneficiary.
The objective and strategies for comprehensive support policy for women of the single person households has been established with bottom-up approach. First, it conducted a survey targeting 570 women in the single person households in Seoul to understand their living conditions and policy needs. It also opened an e-policy forum to hear policy proposal and embody the purpose and goal of policy and formed ‘Task Force Team to establish Comprehensive Support Initiative for Women of Single Person Household’ led by single women public officers and prioritize policy strategies. It is completely policy consumer-oriented opinion-gathering process in building policy prioritization and strategies.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
First, it conducted research on living conditions of women of single person household and their policy needs (’12. 3 - 4)
The comprehensive support policy for women of the single person households, in accordance with Article 163 of Request to Mayor (01/17/12), ‘demand for systematic analysis and policy restructuring concerning rapid increase of single person households’, the survey was conducted on living situations of these women and policy needs (’12. 3 – 4) to understand single women’s current living situations and policy needs via qualitative and quantitative study and experts focus group interview.
It hosted e-policy forum workshop and formed a task force team to prepare for initiative for general support to single person households (’12. 6 - 9).
The mayor of the Seoul Metropolitan Government hosted ‘e-policy forum workshop (06/05/12) joined by single women and all interested parties in organizations including Unnienetwork in the topic ‘Happy Seoul for Single Women’ to listen to panel’s and citizens’ opinions about policy needs and direction followed by integrating them into and giving shape to policy-making.
Based on the opinions collected and integration process, a taskforce team was formed and operated (period from 07/30/12 to 09/11/12) to set up a plan for general support mainly composed of single women public officers and tried to produce policy alternative reflecting reality and difficulties in the daily lives.
The effort has been made to build connection and corporation with departments related to implementation of general support policy for women of the single person households. (’12. 9)
Regarding the initiative for this general support policy developed with diverse opinions and panel review, conference was hosted on Sept. 3rd, 2012 to review policy-making by Vice Mayor I for Administrative Affairs joined by government departments including Housing Policy Department, Health & Welfare Office, Administration Bureau, Culture, Design & Tourism Headquarters. This process helped effectively build cooperative network among government departments related to policy implementation for the general support and tried to yield practical approach to embody policy and its successful implementation.
It has promoted policy and accessibility of policy consumer thereto (’12. 9)
To promote the materialized ‘Comprehensive Support Initiative for Women of Single Person Household’, it held press conference on Sept. 12, 2012 and engaged in active PR through media release inviting different broadcasting or newspaper companies such as KBS, MBC, SBS, or Chosun Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo, Dong-A Daily, etc. Coupling with the policy promotion to citizens, it continues to make an effort to improve policy accessibility of women of the single person households.
It also reinforced feedback process and follow-up measures.
The newly implemented policy has been monitored on its sub-programs under control of different departments and meetings were held among these departments. The Gender Equality Committee has led evaluation on activities related to policy implementation and, based on its monitoring, prepared for follow-on scheme on project that needs attention of head of each department in charge to reinforce policy feedback function for effective, improved policy implementing. Further effort has been made to secure feasibility for the general support initiative and allocate budget for the year 2013 to the existing programs in each department.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
First, a main obstacle was identified in the policy developing process in terms of a pioneer project (first attempt to develop a policy to support women of the single person households)
Discussion has been rarely made regarding policy-making for these single woman households, while policy needs have been emphasized in academic circle that has paid attention to demographic changes. There are few examples found in foreign countries that saw women of the single person households as a main agent of a universal policy and established the policy in this purpose in the universal terms. Because it is the first effort ever made to shift paradigm of women’s policy, it is not an easy task to set a policy direction for women of single person households and embody its project.
>>Solution: thorough research on current situations and policy demand, and policy developing through policy forum.
In order to develop a practical support plan to improve the quality of life of these households, it closely studied policy demand at first. For this, Seoul conducted quantitative research on real life situations targeting 550 women aged from 25 to 49 and narrowed down to 20 women for in-depth interview to identify policy demand by sectors and by case, specifically.
In addition to this, it has tried to understand policy demand of these women via SNS research to a greater extent. Based on the results, experts participated in policy making process to generate policy alternative and the Mayor of Seoul hosted e-forum in the topic ‘Happy Seoul for Single Women’ for the policy to be examined by citizens integrating their opinions. As explicated, it could make a policy successful to support women of the single person households as actively inducing their participation to make them a key agent in policy making process.
Obstacles in policy implementing process: social consent and understanding regarding new policy
It is conventional understanding that the existing women’s policies target women in economically marginalized group or working women seeking dual income while raising their children. In this sense, the ‘Comprehensive Support Initiative for Women of Single Person Household’ is very innovative and leading policy that shifts paradigm of the previous women’s policy. This change might be an unfamiliar notion to ordinary citizen and hard to understand.

☞ Solution: drawing public attention and consent via media publicizing
To guarantee a successful landing, social consent and understanding should come first. It has made an effort to acquaint the public with the current situation of increasing number of the single woman households and difficulties they might feel, and to make it a critical social issue. It held press conference on September 12, 2012 and released through major domestic press about the trend of increase in women of the single person households and policy needs in an effort to promoting social understanding on the policy needs of women of the single person households.

(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
An expert group, ‘Gender Equality Committee’-driven effort was made to improve professionalism of the policy.
The comprehensive support policy-making activity has been joined by the panel group of ‘Gender Equality Committee’ and civil groups during the entire process ranging from establishing, implementing, to monitoring. The policy proposal was submitted in the planning stage led by Policy Planning Divisional Committee in the Gender Equality Committee and continuous consulting has been made in implementing stage. Further, each process has been monitored to set up a plan for improving program that needs improvement by encouraging participation of experts in the entire policy making and implementing process.
It tried to make effective use of resources available through connection to various private institutes.
It pursued to build a collaboration network with various private agencies agreeing on the policy needs to make effective use of resources in the private sector. For example, it operated programs in partnership with private organizations having specialties like education on preventive measure against violence, or avoiding crime such as ‘Violence-Free Academy for Women’ and ‘Korea Taekwondo Association and utilized resources effectively by maintaining professionalism as launching a joint program with hospitals in Seoul in the implementing process for health support program such as visiting health care service for working women.
It established an active collaboration system with public service agencies
Most of all, it signed an MOU (‘Violence-free Seoul for Women’) with agencies that play a critical role in preparing safety measures for women such as the ‘Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’ to frame a basis for seamless service provision from violence prevention to support for victims. Also, it built a network for cooperation with local community centers or Seoul Metro/Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation concerning the project ‘unmanned delivery system’ in subway stations or an area populated with women of the single person households to promote the project to use public service space in an effective way.
It secured financial resources through creative ideas.
It was a ‘housing support project’ that, despite its high demand for these households, encountered obstacles in project implementing due to massive budget required. To solve financial issue, it introduced an idea of renovating old government buildings, integrating safe rental housing program for women into aging public office building reconstruction project in which lower floors are designed for public office use in terms of higher accessibility and higher floors are renovated for safe rental housing for women. As minimizing financial burden while distributing rental housing for women of the single person households, the approach made it possible to secure financial resources effectively. Currently, one pilot program has received positive evaluation and further expansion for reconstruction approach is in a planning stage.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
It is a leading policy developed for the first time in Korea and other countries giving comprehensive support to women of single person households with possible benchmark.
The rapid increase of women of single person households is witnessed in Seoul as well as in major cities around the world. This continual demographic change in a global scale has to be considered as a major subject in establishing future-oriented urban policy.
However, women of the single person households have not been understood as a key policy agent and there was lack of policy alternative having established about this issue so far. In this context, the ‘Comprehensive Support Initiative for Women of Single Person Household’ could play a critical part by being adopted as a benchmark case of women’s policy for large cities in Korea and other countries.
Major cities in Korea have been trying to learn from the initiative as a benchmark case and set it a key agenda among research institutes network for women’s policy in 16 municipal and provincial governments
There is growing attention to the general support initiate for women of single person household among large cities including Busan, and Daegu that recognized the rapidly increasing single woman household and policy demands thereof. In particular, after press release via major media in Korea, there are constant stream of inquiries about the initiative via e-mail or phone call. The ‘Korean Women’s Policy Network’, network in partnership with women’s policy research institute in 16 municipal and provincial governments in Korea, set ‘support for women of the single person households; as an agenda for the workshop to seek for feasible method for application to local governments. During the workshop, the project of Seoul was introduced as a best model and discussion was made about method for expansion in a national level.
It sought for policy expansion and distribution internationally.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has successfully implemented the women’s policy in the past titled ‘Women-Friendly City Project’ closely connected to real life situation that was developed independently for the first time by a local government, resulting in a global success. Now, given that the increasing number of women of the single person households has been witnessed everywhere beyond Seoul, it seeks for a way to introduce, promote and distribute ‘the comprehensive support policy’ internationally. Specifically, hosting an international conference is taken into account in order to cooperate with policy experts around the world.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Powerful leadership: major success came from the Seoul Mayor’s enthusiasm and strong will
The Seoul Mayor, Won Soon Park, realized the need for support on rapidly increasing single women population and kick-started to set ‘Comprehensive Support Initiative for Women of Single Person Household’ as one of top ten agenda for gender equality leading to change in women’s life while celebrating the 3.8 International Women’s Day in 2012. After the event, he hosted e-policy forum to closely review the policy-making procedure while expressing his strong intention to the government bureau and departments for successful, consistent policy implementing.
Step-ahead effort was made to understand policy demands and there has been a proper policy response.
One of the distinctive characteristics of the ‘Comprehensive Support Policy of Women of Single Person Household’ is that it is preemptive measure responding to policy needs. Though more and more women live alone and have difficulties in their life, it is hard to listen to their voice since there has been no policy experience so far seeing them as a key policy agent. However, policy makers responded to policy demand preemptively during the process from identifying these problems as it was and demands thereof to giving a shape and explaining it within social discourse, which policy consumers responded to enthusiastically.
The initiative was developed based on thorough analysis conducted to pinpoint consumers’ demand, which helped bring in practical changes to the life of women of the single person households living in a major city.
The policy was implemented based on governance.
It constructed a structure enabling citizens’ active participation and successfully reached to ‘social agreement’ that had been recognized as a large obstacle in implementing process. In particular, it can be evaluated as very useful success strategies in that it encouraged diverse private organizations and groups to join in the policy-making process in order to make effective use of resources available and at the same time draw more social consent and support.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Women & Family Polict Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   SUIM NOH
Title:   Staff  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   happyend@seoul.go.kr  
Address:   110, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu
Postal Code:   100744
City:   Seoul

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