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‘Low birthrate serious, education costs to blame’

Nine out of 10 people in Korea say the low birthrate is serious, but are reluctant to have children due to financial problems, a survey by the Health Ministry showed Tuesday.

The majority of the respondents supported the government’s pro-birth campaigns but said society was not yet ready to support child rearing.

According to the nationwide survey of 2,000 adults, 86.6 percent said the falling birthrate was serious, and 91.1 percent said Korea advancement into an aging society was a critical situation. Korea’s per-couple fertility rate stood at 1.22 in 2010.

More than 83 percent said the low birthrate and aging society will have a significant impact on their lives, as more taxes will be imposed and the labor manpower shortage will become severe. They expect the two factors to make their post-retirement life insecure and drag national competitiveness down.

The overwhelming majority ― 92.9 percent ― wanted children, but said society was not ready to embrace and encourage childbirth. Over 70 percent claimed that their workplaces do not support pregnancy.

The fact that childrearing puts too heavy a financial burden on parents made people reluctant to have kids. The respondents wanted to have an average of 2.58 children but believed it was more appropriate to keep the number down, to an average of less than two. They said education costs including private education fees was the most burdensome expense, and also cited job insecurity as one of the major hurdles to childbearing. They found it hard to balance family and work.

People were as worried about their post-retirement lives as about the falling birth rate. About 80 percent said people should start preparing for retirement in their 30s or 40s. About 40.6 percent of those over 30 years old had begun to plan retirement.

Health was the biggest concern for after retirement, followed by financial stability, they said, adding that it would take around 1.9 million won a month for a financially stable retirement. Most respondents were willing to pay more taxes if it could guarantee stability when they are elderly.

“The need for a stable living environment and post-retirement life looks greater than ever. The government will work out steps to meet the rising needs,” a ministry official said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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