Gov’t rolls out slew of measures for day careKim Sun-jin, a 29-year-old homemaker, was tense as she waited for her husband’s company to announce the shortlist of employee names randomly selected to use its day care facility.
What concerned Kim was that if they weren’t chosen, she would have to take care of her two children at once, which she found burdensome, as she gave birth to her second child less than three months ago.
As it turned out, Kim’s family was included on the list to send their 2-year-old son to the nursery.
“We were really lucky,” she said. “Most times, it’s almost impossible to get a spot at a company’s childcare facility because the competition is just so high.”
According to Kim, childcare centers offered by companies are affordable and trustworthy compared to other private day care centers.
As part of efforts to ease concerns parents like Kim have when raising kids, the Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday announced a string of measures to improve childcare services, which is considered one of the reasons for the country’s low birthrate, as parents worry about raising kids in an environment lacking facilities.
The government has been rolling out efforts to improve the country’s childcare services as there have been growing complaints among parents over the poor quality offered and the lack of childcare facilities to choose from.
Measures include encouraging more local companies to set up their own childcare centers for their employees by offering government financial support and publicly releasing a list of firms without childcare starting later this year.
Also included in the list of measures are the offer of more government funding to private nurseries with well-equipped services so that parents are given more options of trustworthy day care centers, and expanding the number of hourly-based day care facilities so parents who work irregular hours have more options.
Low-income households, working couples and parents with more than two children will be given priority to use childcare facilities.
“Supporting childcare services is an investment to secure and nurture the future generation, to help mothers be more economically involved in social activities, and most of all, to raise Korea’s low fertility rate,” the health ministry said in a release.
Despite the government’s efforts, however, there are lingering, unresolved issues such as setting aside part of the budget to support the measures announced yesterday. The ministry plans on coming up with a detailed budget plan of the measures in the first half of this year and reflecting them on next year’s budget sheet.
By Lee Eun-joo [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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