Tackling the low birth rateFew believe Korea can pull itself out of demographic conundrum posed by one of the world’s lowest birth rates. South Korea’s fertility rate is 1.24 births per woman over her lifetime. Our rate has been at the bottom of the ranks among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries for many years.
Every government vows to address the problem, which could lead to eventual doom for the Korean race, but none have had the least bit of success. The 20th National Assembly launched a supra-partisan committee to address the birth rate, fearing it could jeopardize the country’s future.
The special committee is a rare cooperative platform of all three major parties. President Park Geun-hye promised subsidies for day care to promote more births. But a lack of financing made the issue political and the day care environment has become more insecure. Because of political wrangling, subsidies have not helped to promote more births even after astronomical spending.
European countries that have been fighting low birth rates for decades, like France and Sweden, have begun to make progress through supra-partisan efforts that kept policy intact regardless of changes in the ruling party. France spent the equivalent of 5 percent of its gross domestic product to elevate its birth rate, which hovered at 1.65 in 1993, the lowest level in Europe.
The French prime minister, cabinet members, and experts drew up a policy framework to launch an early childhood benefit program dubbed PAJE. Early childcare benefits would go to any child regardless of whether their parents were married or not. The birth rate in France has bottomed out thanks to consistency in policies that helped to change the system and French perspectives.
The new legislative committee must be free from political and ideological differences and be true to its sole purpose of promoting birth. It must come up with policies and diverse programs to create an environment and culture that encourage young people to have babies.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 5, Page 30