Almost 90 percent of some 2,000 Koreans surveyed by the government last year think the country’s low birthrate is a ”serious concern,“ while 65 percent aren’t familiar with the parental leave program for working fathers, a report showed Wednesday.
The report, compiled by the Ministry of Welfare and submitted to Rep. Yoon Jong-pil of the Korea Liberty Party, also revealed that more than 60 percent of Korea’s working parents feel uneasy asking for a parental leave, fearing possible blacklash in the future, such as a demotion.
Korea saw its lowest-ever birthrate last year at 1.06 births per woman, falling below the previous record low set in 2005. The country needs a birthrate of 2.1 births per woman to keep its population level stable at 51 million, according to the government.
The government recently announced a plan to invest 900 billion won ($804 million) in tackling the demographic crisis, saying the birthrate is likely to hit a record low this year -- less than 1 birth per woman.
Contrary to the low birthrate, however, the report showed that only 10 percent of surveyed Koreans said they did not need or want children after getting married.
Among those who said they did not want children, the largest proportion, 31.2 percent, said the high cost of child care was the major cause of the low birthrate in the country.
Almost 20 percent pointed to the lack of job security as the biggest cause for the low birthrate. Other reasons included the lack of work and life balance and gender inequality at home, among others.
The report also showed that an alarmingly small proportion of the surveyed Koreans were familiar with paternity leave programs for working fathers.
Only 22.7 percent said they were familiar and informed about them. Almost 65 percent said they have heard about the programs, but were not aware of the details and options.
Gender inequality at home was also a matter of concern. Mothers with young children on average spent 229.2 minutes a day on child care, while their husbands only spent 45.5 minutes.
At the same time, 76.6 percent of the surveyed Koreans said they felt uneasy when they applied for a parental leave. Ironically, 62.2 percent said they think negatively of their colleagues who go on a parental leave, as their absence usually result in heavier work load for their teammates.
Since 2006, Seoul has spent some 153 trillion won on policies and welfare programs aimed at boosting the country’s birthrate. However, the number of newborns in the country has dropped significantly from 2006 to last year, from 440,000 to 350,000.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)