Park’s day care pledges collapse with no fundsThe Park Geun-hye government’s ambitious initiative to provide inexpensive day care services for working mothers has come to an apparent dead end due to a poor assessment of the budget required.
Double-income families with children under the age of 12 were eligible for the government-run child care program, in which a family could receive up to 720 hours of child care service a year, paying a relatively cheap rate based on income level, with hourly rates varying between 1,250 won ($1.20) and 5,500 won.
According to government data, 51,393 households nationwide used the service last year.
One mother from Bucheon, Gyeonggi, who requested that she only be identified by her surname Lee, said she has been using the government’s child care service for her young daughter since January, typically paying for about 10 hours a day.
Lee, 34, who works at an insurance company call center, said the service would have previously cost her about 1.1 million won per month, but with the city’s subsidy, she only had to pay 350,000 won for her toddler, who is about to turn 2 years old.
However, the service was interrupted abruptly last month.
“The city telephoned me and said they would run out of money starting in September,” Lee said.
“They said I should either pay the entire 1.1 million won or find an alternative child care service.”
“I feel like a bomb just dropped on my house,” she added. “I have no idea where I should take my daughter now.”
Starting last month, several local governments, including the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the provincial governments of Gyeonggi, North Jeolla and North Chungcheong either reduced or ended their services after they ran out of funds.
“Since July, we have operated the program by reducing monthly service hours from 60 to 40,” said Oh Yeong-in, the head of the Gender Equality and Family Affairs Division in North Jeolla’s Jeonju city government.
The child care program faced an impasse after the central government failed to accurately assess the demand. Its expenses also rapidly increased this year after the government provided four major insurance plans to the program’s child care employees.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said the program would fall short by a projected 2 billion won by the end of this year.
“We will recalculate the demands for each local government for the fourth quarter and redistribute the budget,” said Park Dong-hyuk, the director of the ministry’s family support division.
“We will create a wait list for the service in order to take a more accurate assessment of the demand.”
BY KIM HYE-MI [email@example.com]