Businesses must help raise the birth rate
Korea’s birth rate is 1.19 per woman. It is far lower than that of Japan and is not on par with the rates of 2 in France and 1.88 in the United States. When it is obvious that Korea will be in an even more serious situation than Japan, the government and politicians haven’t been able to come up with effective plans.
The low birth rate cannot be left to politicians and government to solve, and companies need to get involved. It is directly related to all businesses and industries. Drastic decreases in the size of the consumer group would lead to lower spending, demand, prices and production. It also would result in deflation that results in higher unemployment. The low birth rate is a fundamental issue of awareness, and young couples increasingly think having children and raising them would be difficult.
There are many things companies can do. Conglomerates like Samsung, Hyundai, LG and SK can set a goal of an average birth rate of two and encourage young employees to marry early. Also, they can encourage having more than three children, provide various assistance, expand on-site child care and encourage and support adoption. If companies can make a family friendly system so women don’t have to worry about career interruption when having children, the birth rate can be improved drastically. When large corporations aggressively work to resolve the population problem and raise the average birth rate of employee families to two, other companies would follow and citizens would change.
Finally, corporate social responsibility activities should pay more attention to the problem. Large corporations need to provide child care at workplaces. When the child care demands of employees are met and the facilities are opened up to employees at subcontractors or nearby businesses nearby, it would help boost the birth rate.
My company is a medium-sized enterprise, but it has been providing tuition and birth subsidies to employees’ children regardless of the number of children they have for 12 years. Companies should also be interested in adoption and single parenthood. Companies in developed countries actively encourage adoption, and employees are offered a bonus and vacation when they adopt a child.
For the future of businesses, companies need to work on the population issue. Just like “Plant a Tree,” “Gentrification” and “Saemaeul Movement,” companies should initiate “Better Future with More Children” or “Let’s Have Three” movements. It will take at least 20 years to resolve the problem of the low birth rate. I hope major corporations step up and initiate a solution, as the future of companies and country depends upon it.
by Kim Jong-hoon, CEO of Hanmi Global
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