[Photo by Yonhap]
In a notable move, South Korea’s ruling and opposition parties unveiled their respective strategies to tackle the country’s falling birthrates on Thursday. Bills proposed by the People Power, the ruling party, include forming a population ministry in charge of dealing with demographic issues, extending paternity leave, and five-day childcare leave for parents of children aged ten or younger.
As Seoul grappled with a historically low total fertility rate of 0.78 per woman in 2022, the recent bipartisan effort is a significant step in the right direction.
The government should consider the proposals from the opposition alongside those from the ruling party, given their potential contributions to the demographic issue.
The opposition Democratic Party of Korea, for example, proposed a loan of up to 100 million won ($74,654) on ten-year maturity for all newlyweds regardless of income and asset levels.
This loan program is similar to a successful birth rate policy adopted by Hungary. In its successful initiative in 2018, Budapest offered newlyweds a loan at the time of marriage. The borrowers then became eligible for interest-free payments when they had children within five years of loan issuance and for partial or full principal forgiveness when they had a second or third child. The loan support led to increases in marriages and birth rates in the country.
The opposition also proposed childcare vouchers for single mothers and unmarried women who give birth, which can be effective. France, for example, provides unmarried couples with financial support via a civil partnership called PACS.
A collaborative and inclusive stance is required for the government to make a meaningful impact on this critical demographic challenge. The long-standing tug-of-war between the ruling and opposition, on top of the government’s adherence to political ideologies, is not helpful in increasing birth rates at all.
By Editorial Team
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