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Title: Restructuring women's employment in South Korea, 1997-2005 : the role of the state and NGOs
Author: Lee, Ju-Young
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 9894
Awarding Body: University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2012
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Throughout the development process of Korea, women workers had been invisible in the state's development policies as capable actors for or important contributors to economic growth. After the East Asian economic crisis hit Korea in late 1997, women workers experienced their invisibility again, in the academic discussions on the cause of the crisis, the official statistics on unemployment and non-standard employment, and the male-dominated labour movement. This research aims to turn the spotlight on these women workers by investigating how women's employment in Korea was restructured between 1997 and 2005. After the economic crisis, Korean women workers became the first and main target of neo-liberal restructuring in the labour market and employment for the enhancement of 'labour market flexibility'. They were the first to be targeted for involuntary dismissals and the 'non- standardisation' of employment. This was the outcome of the patriarchal perceptions and ideology of labour market institutions as 'bearers of gender', on women workers and the value of their labour. In other words, women workers were regarded as secondary earners and peripheral workers suitable for non-standard employment. Not detaching itself from the legacy of the developmental state which had stressed the economy any other issues, the Korean state played a leading role in this neo-liberal restructuring in women's employment. It legalised layoffs and the worker dispatch system, abandoned its roles as supervisor, regulator, and executor of the protective laws and regulations for gender discriminating practices in the labour market, led the increase of female non-standard workers in the public sector, and did not develop systematic vocational training for women with proper financial support nor gender-transformative view on women's employment. Meanwhile, with the state's financial support, Korean women's NGOs played a positive role in offering vocational training for those women who needed to find employment urgently after the crisis. At the same time, they played a limited role in curtailing non-standard employment and gender occupational segregation because their vocational training programmes tended to bring gender-stereotyped work and/or non-standard employment to their trainees. However, women's NGOs played a crucial role in helping women workers to mobilise themselves through innovative organisations, such as self-help groups and women-only labour unions. Women workers in these organisations have endeavoured to challenge to the gendered labour market and neo-liberalism by creating their own employment or mobilising themselves beyond differences, so as to make themselves more 'visible'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available