[Chosunilbo] Jan 9th, 2012
Single Mothers in Poverty Trap
Experts say while it is generally believed that single mothers suffer most from discrimination, actually the worst thing is economic problems.
There were an estimated 211,500 single mothers with children under 18 across the country as of November 2009, according to Seoul City's center for single parents.
According to a Ministry of Health and Welfare policy report in 2009, 62.8 percent of single mothers said they suffered most from economic difficulties. Next came housing problems (15.9 percent), childcare (6.2 percent), and difficulties finding jobs or family-work balance (3.5 percent). Only 2.7 percent complained about discrimination.
About a half of the single mothers work part-time or on short-term contracts due to their lack of professional skills and childcare problems. According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, about 40 percent of all single working mothers are part-time workers, with 35.3 percent working in the service and retail industries, i.e. in typically low-paid menial jobs like supermarket cashiers.
According to the 2009 policy report, single mothers with a monthly average income of W500,000-1 million (US$1=W1,149) accounted for the largest proportion or 56.5 percent. They were followed by those earning between W1 million and W1.5 million (26.1 percent) and those making less than W500,000 (17.4 percent).
Most single mothers are chronically in debt because they have to take care of their children. "Single mothers earn about W740,000 on monthly average including their own income and assistance from their family, the government or other agencies. But their average monthly cost of living amounts to W1.05 million," a staffer at civic group Single Parent said.
Childcare expenses took up the largest portion of the monthly cost of living at W360,000. Next came food (W290,000), rent (W190,000), clothing (W80,000), and transportation (W80,000).
According to a survey conducted in 2006 by Single Parent, 44.3 percent of single mothers borrowed about W50,000-100,000 every month for living costs. Some 24.1 percent borrowed less than W50,000 and 22.8 percent about W300,000-1 million a month.
Another survey said single mothers' average debt is W16 million. "Many single mothers are mired in poverty due to their meager income and childcare burden," a staffer with the Seoul center said. "The government needs to work out ways to supply them with loans or rental homes and legally compel fathers to support their children."