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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 30)

2017/12/30 09:27

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Ineffective birthrate policies

Corporate sector needs to do more to help working parents

President Moon Jae-in has been vocal about the need to boost the nation's falling birthrate, but has failed to back up his words with effective policies. The latest meeting of the Presidential Committee on Low Birth and Aging Society earlier this week failed to produce any convincing measures that will encourage Koreans to have more babies.

The number of newborns has continued to decline this year. A Statistics Korea report showed only around 27,000 babies were born in October, down 11.7 percent from the same month last year. From January to October, 306,000 babies were born, which is 12.2 percent less than the same period last year. Korea's birthrate, the number of children a woman is expected to have during her lifetime, has plummeted to around 1.06, which is one of the lowest among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

The report also showed more than 36 percent of newlywed couples did not have children last year. These numbers reflect the growing trend among young Koreans to shun having babies.

President Moon said that the past governments have not been successful in boosting childbirth. "The birthrate policies so far have failed," the President said during the committee's meeting Tuesday. The committee is chaired by the President and consists of officials from relevant ministries and experts. "Since 2006, more than 100 trillion won has been spent on raising the birthrate, but still not much has changed. From now on, we must have a completely different approach to the problem," Moon said, stressing more state support should be provided to parents.

One of the reasons for the failure of the birthrate policies is they have been scattered among various ministries. That is why it is important for the Moon administration to establish a cabinet ministry for birthrate policies, similar to the ones in countries like Japan that have been successful in turning their birthrates around. Korea needs a separate ministry for birthrate policies for maximum effect.

The committee announced some new measures, such as enabling fathers to take longer family leaves and reducing work hours for parents with young children.

These measures are ultimately aimed at enabling parents to have more time with their children and improving the quality of their lives. But none of these measures will be fruitful unless the corporate sector significantly changes its culture to become more family-friendly and promote work-life balance for working mothers and fathers.

(END)

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