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Seoul City may halt free child care

Seoul City is looking to stop providing child care support from October due to a growing budget deficit, reports said Monday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been citing concerns about the growing financial burden of providing “free child care,” which is one of the key welfare plans of President Park Geun-hye’s administration.

Child care services have been expanded to all children age 5 and under starting this year. Previously, the government provided state subsidies to families in the bottom 70 percent of earners only. However, the Seoul Metropolitan Government did not include the top 30 percent income bracket in its initial child care budget.

It said it had secured an additional 135.5 billion won ($122 million) in state funds, but the supplementary budget is expected to run out by September, making it unable to continue the service.

Currently, there are an estimated 408,000 children under 5 in the city, and parents receive a monthly allowance of up to 200,000 won ($180).

Seoul City and its district offices are blaming the central government for pushing for the welfare plan without considering local governments’ financial status.

Infants from households in the top 30 percent income bracket account for 42 percent of children aged 5 and under in Seoul, making the financial burden heavier than other regions, the city and its district offices claim.

“We’ll try our best to continue the service, but realistically it’s almost impossible,” an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.

The official hinted that the city office might issue bonds to continue the child care subsidies in December.

Seoul said approximately 1.65 trillion won is needed to provide child care to all children aged 5 and under.

The central government promised to support 307 billion won, but Seoul and its districts reportedly need to secure an additional 217 billion won.

Meanwhile, district chiefs in Seoul demanded earlier last month that the central government increase its financial subsidy for Seoul’s child care services to of 40 percent from the current 20 percent.

By Oh Kyu-wook  (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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