Economic crises the biggest threat to South Korean families

Posted on : 2017-03-21 16:46 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Survey finds nearly half of households have endured some kind of crisis, whether economic, relationship or disaster

Households face a wide range of threats to their livelihood, including unemployment and poverty of the breadwinner, divorce and separation, disaster, or the suicide of a family member. At times, these threats result in a family crisis, a situation in which the entirely family is rendered helpless and unable to function on a day-to-day basis. What kinds of family crises are most often experienced by South Koreans?
On Mar. 19, the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) published a report titled “Diagnosis of Family Crises in a Diversifying Social Environment and Response Strategies,” with findings based on a telephone survey on family crises conducted with 1,500 ordinary South Koreans aged 20-64 in July 2016.

Most difficult crises families have endured? (unit: %)
Most difficult crises families have endured? (unit: %)

Prior to the survey, KIHASA informed respondents that the term “family crisis” could refer to one of five scenarios: an economic crisis (including bankruptcy, unemployment, insolvency, or being “house poor”), a family relationship crisis (including domestic violence and divorce, separation, or other family disintegration), a crisis in child care and parental support (lack of a guardian for minors, lack of care for the elderly), a suicide crisis (including attempts), and a disaster-related crisis (such as the results of a fire or explosion).

When asked whether they had experienced a family crisis in their life so far, nearly half of respondents (46.1%) said they had. When asked which type of crisis had been most difficult, just over half (51.5%) named an economic crisis. Economic crisis was cited more than twice as often as the second most common type, a family relationship crisis (22.4%). Family crises involving child and elderly parent care were cited by 20.5% of respondents. While the rates were low, some respondents reported experiences with disasters (1.9%) and suicide crises involving family members (1.8%).

When asked what factors had been responsible for the crisis (multiple responses accepted), a plurality of 47.5% of respondents cited economic difficulties. The next most frequent responses were child-raising and parental care (31.7%), unemployment and difficulty finding work (24.3%), household debt (21.7%), disease (18%), and household insolvency and bankruptcy (17.7%). Many families were also found to suffer crisis situations over long periods of time: when asked how long their crisis had been, the average time given by respondents was six years.

The survey found that families experiencing crises suffered severe negative changes, including estrangement in family relationships, deterioration in physical and mental health, lifestyle constraints, and addiction.

“In terms of methods of resolving these crises, there was as strong tendency to address them at the family or individual level, whereas willingness to resolve them at the societal level, such as through the help of expert organizations, was found to be low,” said lead researcher Kim Yoo-kyung.

“Crisis response strategies need to be systematically put in place so that public support can be applied appropriately according to the characteristics of each family crisis type,” Kim suggested.

By Lee Chang-gon, senior staff writer

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