CEO Morning Brief

South Korea Seeks ‘emergency’ Plan to Boost World Low Birthrate

Publish date: Wed, 29 Mar 2023, 08:58 AM
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TheEdge CEO Morning Brief
South Korea seeks ‘emergency’ plan to boost world low birthrate

(March 28): South Korea needs to adopt an “emergency mindset” to reverse its fertility rate that ranks as the lowest in the world, its president said, calling for new initiatives to fix past policies that he sees as broken.

“The low birthrate problem is a crucial national agenda,” President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Tuesday in the first meeting of a new team to develop policies to boost the birthrate. A shrinking population poses long-term economic risks by reducing the size of the workforce that underpins growth and vitality.

Yoon said at the meeting some of his major initiatives include expanding childcare services, improving working conditions for parents, providing newlyweds with affordable housing and financial support, and reducing hospitalisation expenses for children under the age of two.

The South Korean president has said more than US$200 billion has been spent over the past 16 years to increase its population, but with not much to show for it. The number of babies expected per woman fell to 0.78 last year, according to data released by the statistics office last month. South Korea faces the prospect of its population of 51 million people more than halving by the end of this century.

At 0.81 in 2021, it was already the lowest among more than 260 nations tracked by the World Bank. Experts suggest it may take decades for South Korea to achieve a rate of 2.1, which is necessary for maintaining a stable population without migration.

“Based on scientific evidence, we need to re-evaluate the low birthrate policy and properly identify the reasons for its failure,” Yoon said. “The low birthrate problem is intertwined with various social issues such as welfare, education, jobs, housing, and taxation, as well as cultural factors such as women’s economic activity.”

The Yoon administration plans to increase the monthly allowance for parents with babies up to one-year-old from 300,000 won (US$230) currently to 700,000 won in 2023 and 1 million won by 2024.

Parents in South Korea also face expenses for education that proportionately rank among the highest in the developed world.

But critics contend throwing money at families who have children is not enough to address the problem, calling for comprehensive changes that include reducing the burden on women of raising children and making it easier for them to participate in the workforce after giving birth.

Source: TheEdge - 29 Mar 2023

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