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Implications: The government’s pursuit of a higher birth rate is misaligned with the broader public desire for conditions that expand women’s family planning choices. While the subsidies can be helpful in the short-term, public policy experts point out that financial assistance fails to address underlying problems that affect women’s ability to balance their career aspirations and childcare. According to Statistics Korea in 2018, an overwhelming percentage of people on parental leave were still female and the labor participation rate for women decreased as the number of their children went up. The data suggests that reversing the fertility rate may be more dependent on making sure that childbirth and career development are not mutually exclusive options for South Korean women.
Context: First initiated in 2006, the government’s plan to tackle the ongoing demographic crisis is updated every 5 years. Despite government focus on the issue, the total fertility rate, which refers to the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, dropped from 0.98 to 0.92 in 2019. The economic downturn created by COVID-19 and soaring housing prices in Seoul created more hardships for young people. In this environment, South Koreans are reportedly refraining from dating and marriage more generally.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sophie Joo and Chris Lee.