A sad consequence of the PP

South Korea is probably the most extreme example of the Paula Principle. The undervaluing of Korean women’s competences is having tragic consequences. A very simple three-step process shows this, illustrated by the OECD charts below.

First, Koreans have made quite extraordinary educational progress, if you compare the educational levels of 55-64 year olds with those two generations later.

Secondly, it is Korean women who have been propelling this stellar rise up the educational tables. From very low levels a generation ago, 59% of young Korean women now enter Bachelor programmes – a lead of 6% over their male counterparts. The graduation rates are unfortunately missing from current OECD data, but previous years have shown that Korean women increasingly graduate at higher levels.

But thirdly, the gender wage gap remains far far higher than in other countries

And so? The Economist (Dec 12) reports a rise of 25% in the number of Korean women killing themselves. There was no rise in male suicide. The culture of the workplace has not changed; there is very little help in combining careers with child-rearing; a sexist culture magnified by social media; and now Covid has accentuated these problems, with women dropping out of work at three times the rate of men.

This last feature is common in other countries, though not to quite the same extent. For the rest it is tragic to see educational achievement leading not to fulfilment and reward, but to disillusion and death.

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