Analysis of Policy Measures to Address Low Fertility RatesⅤ [Family·Child-Rearing]
December 30, 2016
In the lead up to the expansion and revision of the government's family and child-rearing support policies (whose total budget stands at 9.3993 trillion won as of 2016) drafted based on the Third Basic Plan to Address the Low Fertility Rate and the Aging Population (2016-2020), this report aims at analyzing the policies and their performance and suggesting areas of improvement.
The government needs to create an environment that can support policy implementation by reducing grey areas existing in its work-family balance policies and redesigning the existing reduced working hour system for child-rearing to better reflect the needs of actual users. According to our analysis on the data submitted by the National Health Insurance Service, more than 10% of female workers quit their jobs during the first year after childbirth. Also, around 50% of small businesses, which hire a higher proportion of female workers than other businesses, have a negative view on guaranteeing employees freedom to apply for parental leave. Although the reduced working hour arrangement is found to be the largest contributing factor to increasing the prospect of female workers with children returning to work after childbirth, parental leave and reduced working hour schedules are not equally guaranteed under the existing system (annual hours of work reduced by 2,080 hours while on a 1-year parental leave, whereas annual hours of work reduced by at most 1,300 hours while on a work week of 25 hours for one year).
Parents with infants (birth to age 2) prefer taking care of their babies using personal child care services (provided by their parents or nannies) rather then using a daycare center. However, the amount of government allowance offered to parents using in-home child care services is smaller than that offered to parents using daycare services, and it fails to cover the actual cost incurred by in-home child care services. More specifically, as of 2015, the amount of the monthly government allowance provided per infant for in-home child care is 446,000 won less than that offered for daycare center services, while households using family members or other persons to take care of their baby are found to pay an average of 646,000 won and 807,000 won each month to their family members and non-family persons, respectively, indicating that the financial support only covers up to 31.0% of the actual cost incurred. In this regard, the government needs to consider offering a uniform Infant-Rearing Allowance (tentatively named) for all infants rather than using the current two-pronged allowance system.
Regarding after-school care for children with working parents, the operation hours of after-school care classes do not perfectly match the hours for which the working parents need after-school care for their children due to the time spent on commuting to work and back home, often leaving their children unattended. To minimize this absence of care, after-school care classes should be mandatorily extended to 19:00 from the current 17:00. For dual-income households, it is hard for working parents to come home by 17:00 (according to the 2014 Time Use Survey). However, in 2015, the number of elementary schools running an afternoon care class went up by 0.6% from the year earlier, while the number of elementary schools running an evening care class (until 22:00 if necessary) decreased by 7.7% during the same period.