Gender Gaps in Japan and Korea: A comparative study on the rates of promotions to managing positions

Author Name YOUM Yoosik (Visiting Fellow, RIETI) / YAMAGUCHI Kazuo (Visiting Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. February 2016 16-E-011
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Both Korea and Japan are countries that are well known for showing a strong persistence of their traditional gender role attitudes and behaviors. Thus, we have observed very large gender gaps in wage and economic statuses in both countries. For example, as of 2010, the proportion of women in management ranks was only about 10% for both Korea and Japan while it ranged from 43% for the United States to 30% for Germany. We used RIETI's Survey for Japan and Occupational Wage Survey (OWS) in 2009 for Korea that had been operated by Korea's Ministry of Labor from 1990 to 2013 as multiple cross-sectional data. For decomposition purposes, we adopted the DiNardo-Fortin-Lemieux (DFL) method to examine the disparity in the promotion rates (Yamaguchi 2011; 2014; 2015). We decomposed the disparity in promotions into two parts: one that can be explained by human capital including age, educational level, and employment duration; and another part that cannot be explained by human capital. In 2009, the unexplained portion in Japan was 70% for kakaricho (task group heads) and 79% for kacho (section heads). The closest year for comparison purposes available in OWS for Korea was 2004, and the unexplained portions were 62% and 67% for kakaricho and kacho, respectively. Based on this, we deduce that the glass ceiling, which is invisible above human capital, was possibly more serious in Japan compared to Korea. However, the result from 1990-2013 OWS revealed that the unexplained disparity portion in promotions to managers (kakaricho and higher) in Korea has increased since 2004, from 72% to 84%, and it might be possible that the magnitude of the glass ceiling is quite similar in the two countries. Further studies need more comparable data to draw stronger conclusions.