Gov’t breaks for in-house day care

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Gov’t breaks for in-house day care

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To address growing calls for better day care services for working mothers, the government yesterday announced it would extend the number of day care centers at workplaces by more than 70 percent by 2017 by providing a variety of incentives for companies.

Under a new set of initiatives announced yesterday by the Ministries of Family and Gender Equality, Health and Welfare and Employment and Labor, a workplace that employs more than 500 workers or 300 woman workers are obliged to provide company day care centers for working mothers. Currently, companies can offer day care subsidies or hire private day care centers for their workers to substitute for internal day care centers.

The government said it will offer up to 300 million won ($266,100) in construction subsidies for a business group to build a day care center, an increase of 100 million won from the current aid program.

For small-to-medium size companies, 600 million won will be provided for construction and a monthly payment of 1.2 million won will be available for personnel expenses, an increase of 200,000 won from the current government support.

“Though the college admission rate among Korea’s female students is the highest among the OECD nations, our female employment rate is below the OECD’s average,” said Gender Equality Minister Cho Yoon-sun, explaining the need for the government to help improve day care in companies during a press briefing yesterday at the the government complex in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.

The new government plan is seen as a response to complaints by working mothers that they have trouble finding day care centers to look after toddlers through the evening, when they get off from work. That difficulty has forced working mothers to quit jobs.

According to a 2012 birthrate and child care study by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, 89.1 percent of Korean women aged 20 to 44 work before they marry. But the female employment figure drops to 51.9 percent after they get married and start having children.

“The new government policy will bring about a big positive effect for working mothers as company-run day care centers have been rated as the most satisfactory child care institution by parents, ahead of public centers,” said Kim Seung-kwon, director of the regional policy team at the state-funded Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.

According to government data, only 359 of 919 companies required to provide day care for their workers, or 39.1 percent, run their own day care centers.

The government also said it will ease regulations on the building codes, such as abolishing a current requirement for day care centers with 50 children or more to have outdoor playgrounds. The regulation that requires companies to set up day care centers on the first floor for quick exits in cases of emergencies will also be eliminated.

“With the government financially strained to meet rising demanding for public day care centers, extending the number of company-run centers will serve the interests of parents, companies and country together,” said the Welfare Ministry in a statement released yesterday.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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