An increasing number of newly-weds are of the same age or younger-husband-older-wife couples. Couples where the husbands are older have been steadily decreasing, recording 74.1% of first marriages in 2002 compared to 82.2% in 1990. On the other hand, same-aged couples increased 5.2 percentage points in the same period from 9.1% to 14.3%, and couples where the wives are older have increased 2.8 percentage points from 8.8% to 11.6%. These statistics imply a shift in marriage customs in Korean society.
On July 2, the Korea National Statistical Office published a report entitled 'Women's Lives Seen through Statistics 2003,' providing a sweeping look at the changing status of women in families and society throughout their life cycles.
According to the report, the average ages of women and men who entered their first marriage in 2002 were 27 and 29.8 respectively, both showing a 0.2-year increase from the previous year. The average ages of women and men when they file for divorce are 37.1 and 40.6 respectively, and they are 37.9 and 42.2 years old when they remarry. So on the average, both men and women are divorcing and remarrying at a later age.
Among first-marriage couples, cases where the wife is 1 to 2 years older accounted for 8.9% and where the wife is 3~5 years older 2.2%. And cases where it is the first marriage for both the husband and wife decreased from 89.3% to 79%. In contrast, cases where it is a remarriage for only the wife increased from 2.3% to 5.6%, and cases where it is a remarriage for both spouses increased from 4.7% to 11.6%. Cases where it is a remarriage for only the husband showed a slight increase, from 3.6% to 3.8%.
As for longevity, the report showed that women lived longer than men but suffered from worse health. Women took up 60.6% and men 39.4% of the population aged 65 and above, meaning that among those aged 65 and above, there were only 65 men to every 100 women, that is, 35 more women than men. Among the women registered as cancer patients in 2001, the biggest proportion was of women aged 60∼69 at 33.3%, followed by 50∼59 at 23.8% and 70∼79 at 18.1%. Male cancer patients aged 60∼69 recorded 22.9% of all male cancer patients, 10.4 percentage points lower than women in the same age bracket.
Statistics also showed that women's academic achievements and economic participation are on the rise. 36.9% of Masters graduates in 2002 were women, and they took up 23.2% of Doctorate degree achievers in the same year. Discipline-wise, women accounted for 64.9% of the Masters degrees in Arts and Sports, followed by 57.3% in Education, 39.0% in Medicine, and 21.1% in Sciences. Women participating in economic activities increased from 39.3% in 1970 to 49.7% in 2002, showing a 10.4 percentage point increase. The same statistics for men showed a 3.1-percentage-point decrease from 77.9% to 74.8%, making women's achievements even more impressive by contrast. In terms of wages, however, women's salaries are 63.9% of men's, showing a decrease from the 64.3% of 2001. Also, among the female workforce, 29.1% have temporary jobs and 13.1% are paid by the hour or by day. The same statistics for men are 17.0% and 9.5% respectively, confirming that most of the female workforce is subject to irregular employment.
Statistics also prove that women's welfare is still not up to standard: among workers registered on public pension in 2001, only 31% were women, which is only half the men, and women only receive 28.2% of the total pension currently being given to retirees.
As for women's safety concerns, 64.4% of women aged 15 and above replied that harm from crime was their biggest fear, a much higher percentage than the 48.2% of men who gave the same answer. Women who actually experienced prank or threatening phone calls accounted for 30.8% of the women respondents. And 58.8% of women said that there were certain places they feared passing through after dark, again a much higher percentage than the 37.8% for men. Asked how they responded to such fears, 55.5% said that they passed through anyway, 14.3% said they made a detour even though it was time-consuming, 11.9% said they passed through only in daylight or postponed the trip, and 8.4% said they asked someone to accompany them.