Local gov’ts will be paid to encourage childbirth

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Local gov’ts will be paid to encourage childbirth

The Ministry of the Interior announced on Thursday it will award subsidies to local governments and district offices that incentivize parents to give birth in 2017.

Korea’s fertility rate hit one of the lowest among all OECD member countries last year, and its birthrate in the first half of this year sank lower than it was in 2005, according to Statistics Korea, which is the country’s lowest record to date.

According to the ministry, it will allot a total of 31 billion won ($27 million) as subsidies to 138 local governments whose districts hit a lifetime fertility rate (the number of births per woman during her lifetime) higher than 1.24, which was the average lifetime fertility rate in Korea last year.

“The National Assembly’s special committee on low birthrates came up with the idea,” said Kim Sung-lyul, vice minister of the interior, “that local governments need to be funded in order to help them boost the birthrate.”

The Haenam County Office of South Jeolla may be one of the recipients of the new subsidy. Haenam has been the No. 1 county in Korea since 2012 in terms of its fertility rate, which hit 2.46 last year. The county office in 2008 created a special team with the sole purpose of boosting the county’s fertility rate. The team issued programs, such as one to assist parents who have just given birth to their first child, with a 3 million won fund. The office provides 3.5 million won for a second child and 6 million won for a third.

The office also sent care boxes to parents after their child was born, which contained seaweed (seaweed soup is commonly eaten by Korean mothers after giving birth), beef, baby clothes and bath supplies.

And for those who are still single, the office hosted overnight camps inviting them to get together and go on blind dates. In addition to the new subsidy, the Interior Ministry will also allot a total of 5 billion won as subsidies to more than three local governments showing clear signs of efforts to boost birthrates and will also be rewarding local governments with more social welfare facilities.

Local governments that install more electrical transmission facilities and public funeral and cremation centers will be granted more subsidies next year, as well. Thus, Dangjin of South Chungcheong and Gyeongju of North Gyeongsang will receive an additional 400 million won in subsidies for their electrical transmission facilities. Busan, for the same reason, will receive 300 million won.

Local governments with large funeral parks in their region will also receive respective subsidies to maintain the facilities. Incheon city government will receive 1 billion won, Seongnam city government 900 million won and Ulju County Office of North Gyeongsang 2 billion won.

Eomseong County of North Chungcheong will also receive a 1.1 billion won as it is home to Kkottongnae, the largest social welfare service center in the country, which runs shelters and a hospital for the homeless, senior adults, disabled and orphans.

BY CHUN IN-SUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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