New solution for low birthrateKorea’s birthrate is the lowest in the world. As of 2010, it stood at merely 1.23, ranking 217th among 222 countries. That causes serious problems to our society, such as the vicious cycle of low economic growth due to the decreasing workforce and the deepening conflict between generations because of the mounting economic burden for children to support their parents. That is why our government has been making efforts to reverse the worrying trend. The question, however, is whether these policies are effective when implemented.
In this light, the latest birthrate data offered by Statistics Korea is particularly noteworthy. The number of families having three or more children has jumped sharply, with births of the third child or younger in a family now accounting for 11 percent of total births. This is the highest rate since 1984. Additionally, we should note that the increase in this area is largely confined to rural areas, which means that low birthrates are continuing in urban areas.
The latest trend implies two things. One is that the government’s subsidy for families with “many” kids is proving effective in rural areas. The government’s policies to address the nation’s low birthrate centers on families with more than two kids. Those families were eligible for subsidies for deliveries at hospitals as well as reduced costs for raising children, not to mention financial aid until the kids graduate from high school.
Other benefits, pertaining to parents’ purchases of houses or apartments, were also limited to households with more than two children. In other words, people living in farming areas gave birth to more children due to such benefits. If so, the government needs to consider scaling back the number of families who are eligible for such benefits from couples with three children to those with two.
In cities, however, such assistance does not seem to be effective because of people’s relatively higher incomes and the high costs of housing, child rearing and education. Simply put, the government’s policies to help them with their livelihoods have not been effective. As such, the government needs to approach the issue from a different angle. It needs to go both ways: increasing reliable child care facilities sufficiently, while drastically expanding maternity leave at workplaces. Without removing various shackles on women, such as limiting their chances of gaining promotions due to their getting married and having babies, this problem will be very tough to solve.