Mr. Kim, who lives as a farmer in Cheongyang County in South Chungcheong Province, just had his fifth child.
He knew that due to the poor childbirth rate he would receive a huge childbirth subsidy, but he didn’t know exactly how much it was. When he checked the price, he couldn’t close his mouth out of surprise. It was 20 million won.
However, he is in trouble now when he thinks about his children. Soaring house prices, private education expenses, and temporary jobs for young people make him question his decision to have a lot of kids.
Currently, Cheongyang County has been supporting 600,000 won for the first child, 1 million won for the second, 5 million won for the third, 10 million won for the fourth, and 20 million won for the fifth after the revision to the regulations in 2015.
But there are also concerns about whether such a huge childbirth subsidy is effective enough to increase the population. The ultimate goal of the childbirth subsidy is to solve the problem of low childbirth rate.
Since local governments can implement the policy related to childbirth subsidy without the control of the central government, the amount of the childbirth subsidy becomes competitive.
However, it was pointed out that childbirth subsidy has a limited effect when it comes to increasing the population because it is only a one-time event.
Even though many local governments in areas with a low population are giving a huge amount for a childbirth subsidy, but according to statistics, it doesn’t really increase the number of the population.
For example, Wando County, which provides the largest childbirth subsidy in the country, gives 13 million won for the third, 15 million won for the fourth, 20 million won for the fifth, 21 million won for the sixth, and 22 million won for the seventh child.
The childbirth rate of Wando County was 1.76 in 2015, higher than the national average of 1.23, but the total population decreased by 1902 people from the previous year. In fact, the population has decreased 0.44% over the past five years.
▲ Wando County Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Why has the problem of Korea’s low childbirth rate not been solved? What is the fundamental reason?
Experts say that there is not much for local governments to do except for increasing the amount of money they give to parents. Since what the local government can do is limited, its policy can be a temporary and fragmentary solution.
Kim Hak-man, a professor of Social Welfare and Child Studies at Woosong University, said, "We need to solve the fundamental cause of low childbirth rather than increase the amount of money. Things like unemployment, temporary jobs, the price of houses, and private education expenses are the main obstacles that discourage people from giving birth.
And he added, “It is important to create an environment in which women can maintain both work and family life. And also, we should create a social security system where women won’t face disadvantages after going back to work after giving birth.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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