July 15, 2010 11:12
The government has nearly tripled its childcare budget over the past five years to W2 trillion in an effort to boost the nation's shrinking birthrate, but the results have been disappointing (US$1=W1,202).
According to Statistics Korea, the nation's birthrate has been falling steadily from 1.63 babies per woman in 1995 to 1.25 in 2007, plunging to a record low of 1.15 last year.
Many intertwined factors are accelerating the decline, but the government's inefficient use of its budget, which covers only a narrow range of people, is coming under fire.
According to the government's internal assessment report, the measures leaned too heavily towards childcare support and failed to address other major issues such as the disadvantages women face at work after taking maternity leave. Fear of disruption in their careers is currently the second biggest reason why women refuse to have more than one child.
Another reason behind the dwindling birthrate is the government's financial support is concentrated too much on low-income families, leaving out the middle class which makes up more than 65 percent of the population.
Following the poor results and a storm of complaints on the policies, the government has decided to revise the current measures by expanding financial aid to middle-class families and allocating funds not only according to income level, but also the number of children per household.
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