Welfare Spending to Surpass W33 Trillion Next Year

  • By Kim Dong-seop, Kim Tae-geun

    November 09, 2018 11:57

    The government's welfare spending is expected to surpass a record W33 trillion in 2019 (US$1=W1,117).

    The amount could swell further as both ruling and opposition parties woo voters with increased pensions and childcare benefits.

    Fiscal experts admit that better welfare for the needy is necessary but warn that using such programs as cash incentives could be dangerous.

    The welfare budget proposals submitted by ministries and other government agencies amount to W27.2 trillion, and another W6.1 trillion is needed according to regional government proposals, bringing the total tally to W33.3 trillion.

    In addition, lawmakers are pushing to extend child support for families with children under five to include the top 10 percent of the income bracket, who are currently excluded.

    Experts agreed that it is necessary to bolster the social safety net but express concerns at the speed of increase.

    Last year, when President Moon Jae-in stepped into office, Korea's welfare bill totaled W22.9 trillion, but that rose to W26.1 trillion this year and will now jump again, an increase of W10 trillion in the span of just two years.

    That amount of money would be enough to boost Korea's annual research and development budget of W20 trillion 1.5 times.

    Hwang Sung-hyeon at Inha University, who was chief of the Korea Institute of Public Finance during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, said, "Expanding welfare benefits and pursuing income-led growth are necessary, while cash support is more effective than other forms of aid. But the government will have to explain where the money is to come from if it wants to gain trust." 

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