[Letters] Why families avoid having more babies

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[Letters] Why families avoid having more babies

I strongly agree with “Bringing up baby” [Editorial, Feb.27] which raises doubts that government measures can raise fertility rates and proposes some possible alternatives.

A country’s fertility rate affects its economy as a low birth rate could result in serious social ills. This means that the government should reconsider its policies on family affairs.

They should listen to what Korean couples or parents worry about most and why they avoid having children. Of course, the views of parents with two or more children can be a source of more realistic solutions.

Unfortunately, President Lee Myung-bak’s new policy does not look [well thought out]. [For example] only families with more than three children can get some benefits in purchasing housing. It cannot be a strong motive to decide to have a baby. Who would think to do that just to buy a house? These measures to promote having children are just temporary solutions.

Raising a baby requires enormous responsibility and effort. In Korea especially, it is deeply intertwined with educational issues. As a mother with two very young children, I am most concerned about how my sons will survive when they enter elementary school. Many working moms worry about their children’s first school year mainly because the school day ends earlier than at kindergarten. This causes a dilemma for working moms if they can’t find good day-care centers. If couples factor spending on private education from elementary school through college, having one more DINK - Double Income No Kids - would be a good decision.

The government is currently considering the French welfare system, in which the state spends to raise children until they are of age, but it is too idealistic considering Korea’s budget capacity to deliver on such major costs such as delivery, maternity leave and day-care fees.

In my seven-year experience as a working mother in Korea, I have received only two kinds of support from the state: a subsidy of around 1.2 million won for my six-month child-care leave and two maternity leaves for three months after each delivery. I feel lucky because I know I am more blessed than the last generation.

For the last two decades, however, the education situation in Korea has taken a turn for the worse. Without more innovative and considerate policies, such as increasing birthing subsidies, government subsidies for more reliable day-care centers or promoting more childbearing among parents with only one child, the country cannot anticipate a better future for the next generation.

Choi Ji-young (Janice), teacher, Seoul
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