Local gov’ts balk at free child care

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Local gov’ts balk at free child care

The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s free child care program, implemented last month, is teetering on the brink of financial collapse with local governments declaring they will not allocate enough funds for the ambitious welfare program.

Almost half of the budget for the central government’s plan to provide state-funded child care for all children under two years of age depended on local-government financing. But the Governors Association of Korea, comprised of the representatives of Korea’s 16 metropolitan autonomous entities, announced yesterday that the necessary funds will not be included in next fiscal year’s budget.

“The central government should provide the necessary funds for the local governments,” a spokesman of the GAK said.

“They can’t put such a huge responsibility on local governments because the program was proposed by the central government. They should therefore provide alternative sources for necessary funds or provide us with more money for the program.

“The central government may have enough money for such a project, but we do not.”

An extra 342.2 billion won ($301 million) was requested by the GAK, nearly doubling the 369.7 billion won raised from last year. Until extra funding is provided, representatives said most of the free child care services currently functioning outside of Seoul will be shut down between June and July.

Free child care used to support only the bottom 70 percent of Korean households. It was expanded to include every household last year, alongside other welfare programs to provide free kindergarten and free school lunches to all students, regardless of family income.

By Choi Mo-ran, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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