Toward inclusive growthPark Neung-hoo
*Minister of Health and Welfare
On May 15, I attended the 2018 OECD Social Policy Ministerial Meeting. The meeting was held seven years after the previous one, and ministers from 35 developed countries, including Korea, shared the experiences in social policies with the topic of “Social Policy for Shared Prosperity: Embracing the Future.”
As the minister overseeing welfare and health policy, I used the conference as an opportunity to listen to the opinions of the international community on the inclusive welfare state that the Korean government is promoting. The OECD secretary general, major social policy ministers and international experts showed great interest in Korea’s inclusive welfare, as it is aligned with inclusive growth and people-oriented social policy.
Since its industrialization began in the 1960s, Korea has accomplished unprecedentedly rapid growth to become the 11th-largest economy in the world in half a century. But the fruits of economic growth have not been fairly distributed among the citizens. After the 1997 economic crisis and IMF bailout, a change in mindset to build a solid social security network for all citizens was made, and the basic inclusive social welfare system, including basic life security, began to be established.
In the past two decades, Korea’s social welfare spending grew rapidly, but there are still remaining tasks, as Korea has one of the highest elderly poverty and suicide rates among OECD member countries. Moreover, social conditions such as the aging of the population and plummeting birth rate are rapidly changing. To accommodate the demands of these changes and build a sustainable society, the government aims to realize an inclusive welfare state that all citizens can benefit. Ultimate, disposable income and the spending of the citizens should increase to boost income-driven growth, and a good cycle of welfare, growth and employment will be created.