October 24, 2022 08:34
Some 1,900 daycare centers shut down across the country every year. According to data from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, there were 31,099 daycare centers as of August this year, down 9,139 from 2017.
"It's mostly private daycare centers and small kindergartens that accommodate about 20 children that have shut down," said Chi Sung-ae, a former chief of the Korea Society for Early Childhood Education. "The main reason is the low birthrate that affects all aspects of life."
The number of preschoolers fell 27.3 percent from 1.45 million in 2017 to 1.05 million this August.
Gyeonggi Province saw the highest decline of daycare centers with 2,330 closing down over the same period, while the number of preschoolers shrank by 75,794.
Next came Seoul with a decline of 1,477 daycare centers and 71,528 preschoolers.
"The capital region has the most daycare centers so it saw the most closures," said Kim Young-sook of the Korea Edu-Care Association. "Gyeonggi Province is particularly affected greatly because many young couples settle there after their marriage."
The coronavirus pandemic also played a role. Many parents kept their children from daycare centers for fear of infection. About 3,237 daycare facilities shut down in 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak.
The government is increasing public daycare facilities, but private ones close down at a faster pace. According to the ministry, the number of public daycare facilities increased 2,280 from 3,157 in 2017 to 5,437 in 2021, but private daycare centers dwindled nearly four times by 9,207.
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