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South Korea; Fertility Rates & Work Proximity

Study: Effects of living in the same region as one’s workplace on the total fertility rate of working women in Korea

Despite government interventions, South Korea’s fertility rates remain alarmingly low. This study dives into a lesser-explored aspect: the correlation between the residence patterns of working women and their fertility rates.

The Study’s Framework

  • Objective: To explore how the proximity of a working woman’s residence to her workplace influences her likelihood of having children.
  • Methodology: Utilizing data from the National Health Information Database from 2011 to 2015, focusing on women aged 15-49.
  • Residence Patterns Classified: Women’s residence patterns categorized into three types - living in the same municipality, same province, or different province as their workplace.

Detailed Insights

  • Trends in Fertility Rates: From 2011 to 2015, fertility rates among working women were consistently lower than the general female population.
  • Impact of Proximity: Women residing in the same municipality as their workplace showed higher fertility rates compared to those living farther away.
  • Statistical Analysis: The study employed logistic regression, revealing a 21.6% higher likelihood of childbirth for women living closer to their workplace, post-adjustment for other variables.

Broader Economic and Social Context

  • Economic Factors: A direct correlation was observed between income levels (indicated by insurance contributions) and fertility rates.
  • Challenges in Work-Life Balance: The study highlights the structural challenges in Korea, where long commuting times negatively impact family life and fertility decisions.
  • Housing and Urban Planning: The study suggests that effective urban planning and housing policies, considering the proximity of workplaces, could be key in addressing the fertility crisis.

Policy Implications

  • Rethinking Childbirth Support Policies: The findings imply that existing policies might need a shift towards considering the spatial dynamics of work and residence.
  • Need for Proactive Policies: Instead of merely reacting post-childbirth, policies could focus on creating environments conducive to family planning.
  • Incorporating Housing Policies: Linking housing and urban development policies with fertility-related initiatives could offer holistic solutions.

Study Limitations and Future Research

  • Data Limitations: The study was constrained by the administrative nature of the data, not accounting for actual commuting distances or qualitative childbirth aspects.
  • Addressing Unexplored Factors: Future research should consider factors like educational levels and qualitative aspects of childbirth, which were not covered in this study.
  • Exploring Commuting Distances: Further research could delve into the actual commuting distances to refine the understanding of their impact on fertility rates.

Cultural and Societal Considerations

  • Cultural Factors in Fertility Decisions: The study indirectly touches upon the societal expectations and cultural factors influencing fertility decisions in Korea.
  • Gender Roles and Employment: The increasing employment rate of women in Korea and its potential impact on traditional family roles and fertility rates warrant deeper examination.


The study illuminates a significant, yet previously underexplored, factor affecting fertility rates in Korea - the spatial relationship between a woman’s workplace and her residence. These findings offer fresh perspectives for policy-making, suggesting that addressing Korea’s low fertility rates may require a multi-faceted approach, intertwining housing, urban planning, and work-life balance policies. As Korea grapples with its demographic challenges, these insights could be pivotal in formulating more effective and holistic strategies to boost fertility rates.