The Korea Herald


Govt. told to reward, not penalize, parental leave takers

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : March 23, 2024 - 16:01

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

South Korea's anti-corruption watchdog on Thursday recommended the government to implement measures to provide incentives for public sector workers who took paternity leave, and to ensure they are not penalized for taking leave to take care of their children.

The state-run Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission made the suggestion to the Ministry of Personnel Management and the Ministry of Interior and Safety, in a bid to address the low fertility rate that has been ailing the country. Providing incentives for government workers returning to work after parental leave has been selected as the commission's primary task, after it was selected in the survey conducted by ACRC in January.

"Low fertility is not a just problem for individuals, but an issue that both the private and public sector has to work to address... We will first improve the public sector, then guide the private sector to follow suit," said ACRC Vice Chairperson Kim Tae-gyu, expressing his wish that the changes be made promptly.

A recent survey by the KCTU Research Center showed that the 85.1 percent of men who took paternity leave at least once have concerns that doing so will lead to disadvantages in promotions or performance reviews. The number of South Koreans who took parental leave last year was 126,008, down 3.9 percent from the year before

The ACRC's plan focuses on ensuring that government workers are not penalized for taking a break. It recommended that civil servants returning after parent leave receive high grades in performance reviews as an incentive, and that anyone who had been up for promotion before the break still be considered for it during their parental leave.

Government workers with multiple children were recommended to be given additional incentives when returning to work, such as be considered for promotions.

The ACRC also suggested that when determining how long a government employee has been working, the time he or she spent on parental care should be included.

In terms of finances, the commission made recommendations such as raising the amount of payment the workers get during parental leaves, reducing the interest rates for loans taken by younger civil servants with children and allowing government employees to choose their departments after returning from their leaves.

South Korea has been struggling from a continually falling total fertility rate -- the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime -- as the quarterly figure marked an all-time low of 0.65 in the fourth quarter of 2023. The number of babies born in 2023 also marked a record low of 229,970.