South Korea's top economic policymaker said Wednesday the country plans to expand child care services in a bid to encourage more women to continue to work amid the chronically low birthrate.
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the plan is aimed at better tackling the country's demographic challenges from the low birthrate and rapid aging.
"A decline in labor supply, a jump in welfare costs for senior citizens and regional imbalances will have significant economic and social impacts on the country," Hong said at a meeting on emergency economic situations.
The government said it will put priority on strengthening child care services to prevent more women from experiencing a career break due to childbirths and raising their children.
More working moms had to quit their jobs to look after their children who study at home as they found it difficult to hire child care workers amid the protracted pandemic.
The minister also said the country will expand the issuance of F-2 visas for foreign talented workers in promising sectors. F-2 visas are issued for long-term foreign residents.
Hong earlier said the country may face an "age quake" starting in 2030-40, an earthquake-like demographic shock from a fall in population and social aging, if it does not tackle demographic challenges in a timely manner.
South Korea's working-age population will likely decline an average of 330,000 per year in the 2020s when baby boomers, born from 1955-1963, will reach over age 65, according to government data.
To cope with rapid aging, the government said it will push for measures to help senior citizens better use medical services and beef up the financial status of state pension and health insurance schemes to cover rising welfare costs.
The country will consider introducing "home medical services" under which doctors and health workers will visit the houses of elderly patients to treat them. It will also push for the adoption of non-contact medical services for senior citizens.
South Korea is widely expected to become a super-aged society in 2025, in which the proportion of those aged 65 and older will hit 20 percent of the total population. The country became an aged society in 2017.
Meanwhile, the government dismissed speculation that the country is considering extending the retirement age, currently set at 60.
Whether to extend the retirement age, possibly to 65, has become a hot-button social issue as the country will likely face the so-called demographic cliff in coming years, with a major drop in the working people amid the low birthrate and rapid aging. (Yonhap)