[EDITORIALS]Self-sustaining supportSelf-support programs aimed at encouraging those under the poverty line to seek paying work are coming under censure for their inefficiency. While the budget for these programs has grown every year for the five years since implementation ― from 190 billion won ($194 million) in 2001 to 273.5 billion won in 2006 ― the number of people who have overcome poverty has decreased from 7,101 in 2001 to just 2,886 in 2005. Last year’s numbers signify only a 5.5 percent success rate and half of those people barely rose above the poverty level, even with the help of welfare. The government has announced it will increase the number of beneficiaries to 100,000 by the year 2009 but considering its record so far, this would only be a meaningless manipulation of numbers.
Despite good intentions, these programs are full of shortcomings. More than 33,000 people in these programs have simple temporary jobs, such as cleaning streets and public facilities. Only 8,000 have found vocations such as nursing and carpentry through education and community participation in these self-support programs.
The point of self-support programs is to help people with the will to work to find work. Yet only 4 to 5 percent of people are denied a welfare pension for not actively finding work. The self-support programs aimed at encouraging people to work are inadequate. The biggest problem with these self-support programs is that there isn’t much incentive to work hard. Even if a participant refuses to work, the government doles out money to make up for the decrease in his or her wage. Another reason participants might not want to work hard and graduate from the program is that once declared above the poverty line, they cannot receive the 20 or so welfare benefits, such as health care. Under these circumstances, the welfare programs could cause more problems than solve them.
Even more economically advanced countries than ours are reforming their welfare systems to encourage people to actively work rather than seek help from the government. The United States introduced a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families system that cuts off welfare support after a certain period of time. We should give more incentive to people who participate in self-support programs with a higher level of labor and reinforce government support for those seeking work or willing to start their own businesses. We should also make full use of systems that connect productivity and welfare such as the Earned Income Tax Credit system and Individual Development Account system that will soon be introduced. In order for these systems to work properly, we need to first set up a mechanism that accurately surveys the income of those below poverty level. By providing such systems, we will be able to give hope to those receiving welfare pensions that they, too, can see their earnings increase and one day escape poverty if they work hard.
Instead of trying to close the gap between the rich and the poor by dragging down the rich, we should help the poor to stand on their own through proper self-support programs.