South Korea’s low fertility rate a nagging worry for president

SEOUL,  President Park Geun-hye said South Korea must tackle its fertility rate, one of the lowest in the world, but her policy agenda is being met with skepticism.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said her administration is ready to tackle the issue of South Korea's fertility rate, one of the lowest in the world. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said her administration is ready to tackle the issue of South Korea’s fertility rate, one of the lowest in the world. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Park announced her policy plans on Thursday in an address that highlighted problems regarding Korea’s low birth rate and its increasingly aging population, South Korean outlet Money Today reported.

The South Korean president said work-life balance must be improved for South Koreans of working age, and that pressure to stay late or attend excessively long work-related dinners and functions needs to be curtailed.

Park also said men and women need to share child-rearing responsibilities, and fathers need to be as actively involved in parenting as mothers.

“It is my hope that a realization is formed that society will progress with more women in the workforce…the assumption household duties are for women and work outside the home is for men should be discarded,” Park said.

Park said policy should allow women to work more flexible hours.

South Korean television network JTBC reported Park’s agenda addressed critical issues but did not veer from old policies that have not been effective in resolving the low birth rate, which now averages 1.21 births per woman.

One aim of the Park administration is to decrease youth unemployment, an issue connected to the birth rate and decision to postpone marriage and childbirth.

But similar policies under previous administrations, including incentives for working men to spend more time with their children, have not changed South Korea’s workaholic office culture, South Korean press reported.

A survey of South Koreans between the ages of 23 and 36 has indicated financial pressures are a major reason for the decline in the fertility rate. South Korean television network SBS reported South Korean women on average now have their first child at age 31, up from 2 in 1993 and 29.6 in 2013.

By Elizabeth Shim

UPI NEW