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Seoul to expand support for working moms

The government on Tuesday unveiled a package of comprehensive measures to support working mothers so they can better balance work and life, create a family-friendly culture at workplaces and encourage fathers to engage in child rearing at home.

The ministers of finance, welfare, gender equality and labor said in a joint briefing that the government will expand the flexible working hours system for mothers and fathers with children aged under 8, increase the number of state-run day care centers and support infertile couples.

“The government will make efforts to eliminate the term ‘career-interrupted women’ within (the president’s five-year) term,” Vice Prime Minister Hyun Oh-seok said in a news conference jointly held with the related ministries.

“The best policy to tackle the low birthrate and aging society is to encourage women to return to work,” he said. Hyun and other ministers reported the plan to President Park Geun-hye during the weekly Cabinet meeting held in the morning.

The government plans to inject 4.6 trillion won this year, a 26.3 percent increase, from last year.

The measures came a month after President Park urged Cabinet members to seek ways to expand economic opportunities for women struggling to balance work and home. The plans are also aimed at increasing the nation’s employment rate to 70 percent.

Source: Ministry of Strategy and Finance
Source: Ministry of Strategy and Finance

The early departure of the women workforce has been cited as a major factor in the country’s falling rate of female participation in the economy. The economic participation rate of women in their 30s dropped significantly to 56.7 percent while the rate of men in the same age group exceeds 90 percent, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said quoting recent data. The economic participation rate of Korean women on average was 55.2 percent, which is lower than that of Japan and the United States with 63.4 percent and 67.6 percent, respectively, according to OECD reports.

As part of efforts to encourage women to return to work, the government has decided to change the term “maternity leave” to “parental leave” to promote awareness that not only mothers but also fathers are responsible for child rearing.

To encourage both parents to take flexible working hours, the government plans to increase incentives for workers who choose to reduce work hours to spend more time with their kids. Men with a second child and wife on maternity can receive up to 1.5 million won for one month, officials said, adding that this is a modified version of Park’s presidential pledge for a “father’s month.” Park had vowed to offer a one-month paid leave for fathers with newborns.

The government also plans to build 150 state-run day care centers across the country and expand financial support for companies that plan to operate day care centers at their offices.

By Cho Chung-un (