Tackling the low birthrateA rare supra-partisan party committee called Agenda 2050, comprised of 12 members of the 20th National Assembly’s three major parties, held its first meeting. It pledged to address the low birth rate issue. The committee will research and develop solutions for future legislation on education, welfare, taxation and various other measures. Heavyweights like Kim Chong-in, interim head of the Minjoo Party, Reps. Yoo Seong-min, Na Kyung-won, and Kim Se-yeon of the Saenuri Party and Kim Sung-sik of the People’s Party took part in committee’s first meeting.
“If demographic structure is not normal, none of the existing systems will work,” said Kim of the Minjoo Party. The country’s birth rate, the lowest among developed nations, is an impending issue that requires bipartisan and pan-national attention. Acccording to Na of the ruling party, “The work of the National Assembly is to prepare for future generations.” The 20th National Assembly could join up with the government to make addressing demographic challenges lasting policy regardless of changes in governing power.
The birth rate issue has worsened as a structural problem due to a lack of awareness from leaders. The issue has been more of a rhetorical slogan than a theme for serious deliberation and discussion among politicians. The issue also was neglected in President Park Geun-hye’s agenda. The government also has been neglectful.
Japan, with its similar challenges, has taken a different path. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made its top agenda the slogan “keep up a population of 100 million.” He created a ministry to spearhead policies related to demographic issues. Under such power, endeavors to fight low birth have accelerated and are beginning to have an effect.
The National Assembly must take the lead if the government is lagging. It could set up a special committee devoted to the issue and publish a white paper to keep people informed on the progress and the areas that need fixing. The parties also could come up with the radical measure of setting aside a part of the annual budget to sustaining the population.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jun. 30, Page 30