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[Editorial] Encouraging Procreation

Posted November. 26, 2009 09:03,   


The Presidential Council for Future and Vision has suggested measures to boost the country’s birth rate. They include lowering the entry age for kindergarten from six to five years, raising the retirement age for parents with multiple children, and offering third-born children benefits of college entrance exams or job seeking. The measures stem from fears that the birth rate of 1.22, the world’s lowest, could fall under one in the wake of economic difficulty. If measures are necessary to boost the birth rate, the government should push them through despite resistance.

Young children grow far faster than their older counterparts. If five-year-olds are allowed to attend elementary school, their parents can be relieved from the financial burden of preschool. So the proposal to lower the age of school entry sounds like an innovative solution to lighten the burden of raising children. Before introducing the measure, however, the government should thoroughly consider the effects of early school entrance, raise the number of classrooms and teachers, and predict problems resulting from early graduation. The principle of equal opportunity should also be reviewed when giving a family’s third child advantages in college entrance and employment to avoid controversy over reverse discrimination.

Reduction of the financial burden of raising children is certainly a desirable goal. The government should come up with innovative solutions to assure married couples that they can get full state support when raising children. It is impossible for the birth rate grow in a society where parents face financial difficulty in raising children, women take full responsibility of childcare, and working moms are discriminated at workplaces.

Practical and effective measures are needed to boost the birth rate, but the council’s suggestions sound like just a combination of enviable ideas. A study by ruling Grand National Party Rep. Kim Jeong-hun found that 60 percent of organizations affiliated with the Knowledge Economy Ministry do not follow the requirements for in-house nurseries. The research proves that existing policies are ineffective. The government needs to consider the argument that free education for five-year-olds will prove more effective than early school entrance.

For their part, companies should support government policies. In-house daycare centers could be a big help for female workers, but cannot solve the difficulties of all employees. Many workers in advanced economies enjoy a flexible workweek system in which parents can leave the office earlier. This will prove more efficient than in-house daycare centers.

With no measures to fight the low birth rate, nobody can guarantee Korea’s economic growth, national security and competitiveness. All government authorities need to gather wisdom and capabilities to resolve this problem.