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Childcare costs on the rise amid falling birthrate

With the birthrate continuing to fall, the costs for childcare have increased almost 25 percent over the past five years, a government survey found yesterday.

According to the survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a family with children aged 12 or younger spent an average of 332,300 won ($300) per month on childcare and education last year, or 12.9 percent of household income.

The figure was a 24.3 percent increase from 267,000 won in 2004.

For preschool children alone, childcare spending was 335,000 won per month, amounting to 14.1 percent of family income.

“Low-income families spent less on childcare and education. But the ratio to their income was relatively higher, putting more economic pressure on them,” said Seo Moon-hee, researcher at the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education.

The survey also found that a family with a working mom spent 402,200 won, much more than 291,100 won of a stay-at-home mother.

The difficulties of working moms were confirmed in the survey. They cited a heavy workload (30.9 percent), lack of childcare facilities (20.2 percent) and the high costs (21.2 percent) as the main contributors.

Full-time homemakers said they had wanted to focus on childcare (57.8 percent) or they could find no one to take care of their children (30.3 percent). Of the stay-at-home moms surveyed, 24.6 percent quit their jobs for childbirth and childcare.

According to the survey, 1.13 million preschoolers, or 40.1 percent of the total, were found to have been using 33,500 nursery facilities nationwide. When including the number of kindergartens, the figure jumped to 61.8 percent.

Using nurseries costs 168,000 won (114,000 won for childcare and 54,000 won for additional costs such as field trips), which means 7.4 percent of an average family income.

However, 35.6 percent of favored facilities that are cheaper, state-run or located near workplaces of parents had waiting lists for new applicants, the survey found.

“People’s expectations about public support for childcare have become far higher. Considering that many women quit jobs for childcare, the government needs to find more aggressive measures to help them balance work and family,” Seo said.

Korea has the lowest birthrate in the world. The birthrate, which fell below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 percent for the first time in 1983, dropped to 1.19 in 2008.

By Lee Ji-yoon  (