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Incentives for Military Service, Childbirth

Posted September. 11, 2010 10:35,   


The three key elements of a nation are sovereignty, land and the people. If national defense is not strong, Korea could lose its sovereignty and land as the Korean Empire did in the early 20th century. If the birth rate remains at 1.19, the lowest in the world, a population decline will start in 10 years. Giving men who completed military service extra points when they apply to government or public institutions and tackling the low birth rate need to be considered from the perspective of the sustained and continued growth of the Republic of Korea as a nation.

The situation the country faces now is quite different from 1999, when the Constitutional Court struck down giving those who served in the military extra points in recruitment. National security is a top priority following the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan by a North Korean torpedo attack. Society as a whole also feels more grateful to those who served their country. The social environment is conducive to granting benefits to ensure that those who spent two years of their youth defending their nation are not at a disadvantage due to their military service.

A revision bill to the Military Service Act set for submission to the National Assembly session has lowered the bonus points ratio to 2.5 percent of an applicant’s score, and restricts the portion of those recruited through extra points to 20 percent of those hired. The government finalized Friday a second basic plan to tackle the low birth rate and rapidly aging society for 2011 and 2015. Elements of the plan include provision of a free high school education to the second child of a family born from next year, expansion of childrearing and education subsidies, and assurance of rehiring female government employees who give birth to multiple children three years after the retirement age.

The Korea Employers Federation immediately rejected the plan, saying, “The measures generate or reinforce regulations meant to provide reckless benefits, including raises for women on maternity leave, and further cutting working hours for women with children, which could burden corporate management of personnel and dampen their capacity to create jobs.” The government has also not said how it will fund the plan, whose budget will be at least 80 trillion won (68 billion US dollars) over the next five years.

It is essential, however, that society provides benefits for childbirth just as it compensates those who serve in the military. If women do not give birth, the economically active population will decline, resulting in a lower potential growth rate, a drop in tax and welfare revenues, and a decline in the number of servicemen. This will be a disastrous situation. Korea must change its perception and recognize that supporting fertility is a means to protect the nation and investment to boost economic growth. Women and companies should also not be unilaterally forced to make sacrifices in the campaign to generate and cultivate future personnel. Populist policies meant to recklessly give benefits must be revised, while the government, companies and experts should pool their wisdom to form and present a consensus designed to counter the low birth rate in a public hearing set for Tuesday.