The central and local governments agreed to share around 664 billion won ($588 million) of additional burdens required for the expanded state childcare program, the Prime Minister’s Office said Thursday.
The agreement came as the local governments have been complaining that they are running out of funds for the program to provide free childcare services to all families with children up to 2 years old, regardless of the parents’ income level.
Previously, only lower income families were eligible for the benefit.
Since the program was implemented this year, some 802,000 children took part in the program as of July, which is nearly 100,000 more than previously expected, causing a 663.9 billion won shortage for this year.
During Thursday’s meeting involving the officials of the PMO and representatives of the Governors’ Association of Korea, the central government offered to finance 435.1 billion won with local governments providing 228.8 billion won to shore up the dwindling resources, according to the PMO.
In the similar meeting held in August, the central government had offered to provide 285.1 billion won out of the shortage, sparking strong resistance from the local governments.
“Both sides shared opinions of continued benefits for the people and agreed upon how to foot the bill,” PMO Minister Yim Jong-rong said. “The government is now discussing how to reform the subsidy programs by taking into consideration the financial status of the central and local governments, and the public’s diverse needs in raising children.”
Following the meeting, however, the Seoul Metropolitan Government made it clear that it cannot accept the agreement which “runs counter to the city’s consistent stance of seeking financial support from the central government to cover all the shortages.”
“Local governments in the city cannot shoulder that much of a burden. I agree with the principle of supporting the childcare program, but it is better for the city and the central government to discuss the matter again later,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said after attending the meeting.
“I will try to find solutions in consultation with the other provincial authorities on how to solve the problems caused by the central government’s unilateral pushing of policies,” he added. (Yonhap News)