[Letters] Working together to boost the birthrate!

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[Letters] Working together to boost the birthrate!

Professor David Coleman of the Oxford Center for Population Research warned at the World Ageing and Demographic Forum that if its low fertility rate continues, Korea may be the first country to disappear from the earth! The low birthrate means a smaller working population to produce and consume and a greater aging population to support.

Moreover, Korea’s total fertility rate is 1.23, the lowest among the member countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and one of the lowest at 217th among 222 countries around the world. Regrettably, shrinking population is a serious possibility for the Republic of Korea. Now, Korea needs to thoroughly prepare to prevent the warning from becoming a reality.

What kind of preparation do we need? Pregnancy, delivery and childcare are working gears connected to one another. In order for the gears to turn properly, the cogs need to be in mesh. The government first needs to listen to the needs of the citizens and come up with a more customized program. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s 2001 report on the citizens’ awareness on low fertility rate and ageing, nine out of 10 respondents found the low fertility rate a serious problem.

After all, we can encourage having more children when parents can afford to raise children. In order to resolve the low fertility issue, we need various social and economic changes and efforts. To lessen the financial burden on childcare and education, the recipients and amount of the subsidies should be expanded to accommodate the realistic needs. According to the health ministry, 81.3 percent of the citizens support increasing budget for childcare subsidies. Workplaces should offer shortened working hour for parents with young children and provide on-site childcare facilities.

Religious groups also should make efforts to promote respect for life, and government and civil groups need to develop policies and assistant programs to make sure the citizens can have peace of mind when they choose to have children. Of course, a few programs wouldn’t solve the low fertility issue overnight. Nevertheless, when all social entities, including the citizens, the government, companies and religious groups, work together to boost the birthrate, we would be able to have plans and solutions that everyone can agree on.

Kim Young-sun, president of the Planned Population Federation of Korea

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