[Letters] A wrong solution for low birthrates

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[Letters] A wrong solution for low birthrates

Elementary schools increasingly shut down due to a record low birthrate in this country: 1.22 percent compared to an OECD average of 1.74 last year. At the current pace, Korea is expected to become a super-aged society by 2026, with not much time left to prepare for the immense economic and social burden. To tackle the challenge, the government appears to consider the establishment of an immigration administration particularly to draw more foreign workers and raise the declining fertility rates. However, that initiative does not seem to be a good option to slow down the aging society.

First of all, the government could face a mounting financial burden in maintaining the social welfare for the aged if it decides to embolden the immigration policy. When more foreign workers are brought in, a huge influx of mostly cheap manpower is likely to take over even the minimal jobs of Korean youth - with their jobless rate already one of the highest among the OECD countries.

As a result, unemployment beneficiaries among our youth, which has already exceeded 1.5 million, will also increase. Some may argue that as the increased foreign workers will pay more taxes, the government would not have to heed to its financial burden on social welfare. But it’s not true, since foreign workers, with few exceptions, are engaged in 3-D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) jobs which do not pay well. As the amount of tax payment is mostly determined by one’s income, they can hardly function as a sufficient supplement for the soaring welfare budget.

Second, a short-sighted immigration policy could end up with a more-aged society. If more productive foreign workers immigrate to Korea for jobs, they too will get older soon. Proponents of the active immigration policy may claim that they can help raise our birthrate. But this is still questionable as there is no guarantee that they will have more babies, given that they will face same kinds of hurdles as Koreans do: high education costs, housing and so forth.

Expanding the size of foreign workers to address the two dilemmas of low birthrates and a scanty workforce can actually bring about the opposite results: more financial burden for maintaining the social safety net and further exacerbation of our aging society.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.

Yoon Young-bin, a senior student at Bundang High School
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