The true cost of a child“How much does it cost to raise a child?”
The presenter asked this sensitive question during a lecture in Sejong City. Most of the attendees were male civil servants at central government ministries, and some responded, “100 million won ($82,240).”
The lecture topic was the growth potential of the Korean economy, and there was no further discussion on the amount.
But I was curious where this number came from. One hundred million won is ten times the subsidy some local governments give to families with a third child.
But according to a survey by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs in 2012, it actually costs 389.6 million won to raise one child from birth to college.
Could we give 100 million won to every family with a child? That would, of course, be impossible considering the financial state of the government. In 2014, 435,400 babies were born, and it would take 43 trillion won to give 100 million won for each child. If it cannot be given directly, childcare costs must be lowered.
If those costs cannot be lowered, the surging rate of increase should be curbed. The total cost of raising a child was 197.02 million won in the 2003 survey by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, and now, it is over 300 million won in just nine years because of rising education expenses and the high-cost childcare structure.
In order to resolve this issue, various solutions are needed. According to Prof. Choi Seul-gi of KDI School of Public Policy and Management, parents should be able to raise their own children by reducing their work hours.
Former Samsung Executive Yang Hyang-ja, who joined the Minjoo Party, has pointed out that the reality of motherhood obstructing women’s success should be changed. Moreover, we need to give hope to our children that regardless of their family backgrounds, anyone can succeed and enjoy a happy life by working hard.
From next year, the economically active population between age 15 and 64 will begin to decrease. It is a matter of time before Korea’s overall population shrinks.
In 1971, 1.02 million babies were born, the most in our history. But since 2002, the number of newborn babies remains around 400,000 every year. While the government presented various measures to boost childbirth, none has been successful.
When people think it would be good for the country to have more young people, but feel there’s no reason for them personally to have children, the society would be in chaos.
While birthrate is a secondary indicator of health in Korean society, it must be managed as a key indicator that is as important as the economic growth rate.
*The author is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 15, Page 30
by KIM WON-BAE