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South Korea Declares 'Demographic Emergency' amid Low Birth Rate

20 June 2024 08:53 WIB

South Korea's President Yoon Suk-Yeol speaks during a bilateral meeting with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (not pictured) in Seoul, South Korea, September 29, 2022. Harris met with Yoon after arriving in the South Korean capital early on Thursday amid simmering tensions in the region over North Korea's missile launches and China's actions in the Taiwan Strait. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool

TEMPO.CO, JakartaSouth Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a 'demographic emergency' on Wednesday, June 19, amid growing concern over the East Asian country's declining population. He promised to make every effort to overcome the nation's extremely low birth rate.

“Today, I officially declare a national demographic emergency. We will activate a pan-government comprehensive response system until the low birth rate issue is overcome,” Yoon remarked during a presidential committee meeting, as quoted from Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency.

South Korea's fertility rate, or the average number of births per woman, has plummeted to a record low of 0.72 in 2023, far below the replacement level of 2.1 which is needed to maintain the current population.

The government has provided various incentives over the past decade to encourage families to have children. However, several factors, including expensive housing prices, education costs, and long working hours, make young people reluctant to start families and have children.

Yoon outlined three key areas, namely focusing on work-life balance, improving public childcare services, and providing better housing, to address the complex issues.

In detail, the government will increase parental leave benefits and expand the leave for fathers to raise the rate of paternity leave from the current 6.8 percent to 50 percent. There will also be flexible working hours, an extension of the age limit for reduced working hours for parents of young children, and subsidies for employers who hire temporary replacements for employees on parental leave.

Yoon further pledged to increase support for childcare services and expand after-school programs for elementary school students to ease the educational burden on parents. Households with newborns will be given priority in housing allocation and low-interest loans for home purchases. Additionally, the government will expand tax benefits for households with children.

In order to implement the measures, the South Korean President announced the establishment of a new ministry, tentatively called the Ministry of Population Strategy Planning, to be headed by the deputy prime minister for social affairs.

ANTARA

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