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World`s lowest birth rate and high youth suicide rate

Posted December. 11, 2015 11:01,   


Last Sunday, a single man in his 30s jumped to his death before his mother`s eyes out of despair for many years of his jobless life. He is said to have been depressed since going to his friend`s wedding. In mid-November, a man in his 40s was found dead in his semi-basement room three weeks after he died. He wrote in his diary: "I want to do business to repay debts, get married and have children, but I can`t. I don`t even have money for ramyeon (instant noodles). I feel like I will become a criminal if I live any longer." According to the National Statistical Office of Korea, the top cause of deaths among people in their 20s and 30s in 2014 was suicide. The top reason for having suicidal urges was economic difficulties.

The government announced the third "basic plan" to address the issue of low-birth and aging society. Dubbed the "Bridge Plan 2020," it shifts the focus from childcare support under the previous plans to taking measures for trend towards delayed marriage and non-marriage. The Ministry of Health and Welfare said that the biggest obstacle to addressing delayed marriage and non-marriage is high youth unemployment. Although the ministry stressed that the proposed labor reforms centering on wage peaks, reduced working hours and improved employment relationships would create 370,000 jobs for the youth over the next five years, it is uncertain whether the labor reforms will be implemented. The plan to provide 135,000 houses, including rental homes, to the newly-wed over the next five years calls for expansion of the ceiling on key-money loans, which will ultimately lead to greater debts. It is unclear whether such a measure will change the minds of younger generations.

Korea`s total fertility rate stood at 1.21 last year, one of the lowest in the world. According to the National Statistical Office`s statistics on social trends in 2015, half of those who were born between 1979 and 1992 think that marriage is not a must, suggesting that they give up marriage because it is difficult to get married. In an October cabinet reshuffle, Japan appointed a new minister tasked with finding ways to boost the birthrate and keep a shrinking population from falling below 100 million. Compared with Japan`s plan, the South Korean government`s measures lack the sense of crisis and urgency.

It is time that the government, businesses and the entire people share the urgent sense of crisis over the time bomb of low-birth and aging society. Also necessary from a long-term perspective are social structural reforms and enhancement of social consciousness toward family-friendly corporate culture, men`s participation in childcare and reduced burdens of child rearing and private tutoring. Above all, the first step toward increasing the birth rate should be taken from creating jobs for the youth. That is the way to save young people from despair.