It takes a villageDespite astronomical spending to promote child rearing, Korea will likely record its lowest-ever newborn count this year.
According to Statistics Korea, 215,200 babies were born in the first half of the year, and at this rate, the birth count may not top 420,000 by the end of this year, keeping Korea at the bottom as the country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development with the lowest fertility rate.
In the second quarter, the rate was 1.16 newborns per woman, lower than the 1.24 recorded during the same period last year. Single-child families are increasingly becoming a fixture in Korean society.
Based on the worsening data, the government on Thursday announced new measures to address the low fertility rate, including increased government funding to treat infertile couples and provide more paternity leave pay for fathers.
The measures are desirable but fall short of reversing the birthrate trend. The statistics show that existing government measures do not actually help to create results. Measures revolving around the concept of the traditional family have limitations in today’s society.
We need a broader social approach and framework. There is a limit to encouraging child rearing among the eligible population. The reasons for opting out of marriage and children must be explored, as they are related to structural problems in Korean society.
The National Assembly must pass a law that makes maternity and child care leave mandatory. Society must be family-oriented so that women can consider child rearing as a blessing instead of a burden.
Norms in the workplace must be fixed so that people leaving for child care are not discriminated against in the workplace and forced to interrupt their careers. Gender equality must be institutionalized at home and on the job so that both women and men can fairly shoulder family and work life.
We must remember that raising children is not just the responsibility of women but of the entire society.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 26, Page 34