New day care center subsidy program takes effect todayAfter reaching a consensus with day care center lobby groups, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced Thursday its revised subsidized day care center program for toddlers that will take effect today.
In the revised program, double-income households with two children aged less than 36 months, as well as those that struggle from substantial child care burdens, will be eligible for 12 hours of partially-subsidized child care.
Before the revision, all children up to 36 months old were eligible for the government supported day-long program. The ministry expects the percentage of full-time programs in day care centers to increase from 76 percent to 80 percent.
“Double-income families as well as families where the parent is pregnant, looking for a job or has many children will be eligible for day-long programs,” said the welfare and health minister, Chung Chin-youb.
Children from single-income households will be offered subsidized part-time day care up to six hours per day.
The ministry decided to limit its offer of full-time childcare care program subsidies due to the excessive number of children in day care centers, which made it difficult for full-time working parents to find childcare centers.
The welfare ministry first decided to offer the full-time program to only double-income families and families with three children. It also planned on granting 20 percent less childcare subsidies to families only eligible for part-time programs.
The plan, however, faced criticism from stay-at-home mothers who accused the revised plan of being discriminatory. Day care center operators also criticized the plan, fearing it might negatively impact their profits.
The ministry therefore expanded the full-time program to include families with two children and to offer a 6 percent increase in childcare subsidies to families that send children to part-time programs. Due to the rise of subsidies, the ministry plans to spend an additional 20 billion ($17.3 million) won.
Day care center profits are also expected to increase 5.6 percent after the revised plan takes effect.
After the revision takes effect, parents and day care centers will receive messages on the details of the new plan, including eligibility for full-time child care program and the amount of subsidies.
While major day care center organizations including the Korea Edu-care Association and the Korea Family Child Care Center Association agreed with the ministry’s decision, other associations such as The Korea Private Child Care Center Association are still dissatisfied with the revision.
Minister Chung vowed to punish any day care centers that take part in illegal strikes.
“I agree with the ministry’s decision,” said Seo Mun-hee, the head of the Korea Childcare Promotion Institute. “But the actual subsidy amount going to the second child of single-income families is only 3,000 won more than what goes to children in part-time classes. The program has to further support parents who have to send their children to day care centers.”
BY SHIN SOO-YEON, HWANG SU-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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