Analysis on the Policy Responses to Low Fertility
Published on 23 August 2021
Published by Social Administrative Program Evaluation Division
According to the Framework Act on Low Fertility Rates and Aging Society, the government develops a Framework Plan to Address Low-Fertility Rates and Population Aging every five years to pursue measures against low-fertility rates. The central government’s budget spent on such measures has continued to increase, from 1.0 trillion won in 2006 to 42.9 trillion won in 2021.
However, despite the government’s initiative, the declining pace of total fertility rate has been accelerating since 2016. In this respect, this report aimed to analyze and evaluate the designing and execution process of measures to tackle the low-fertility rate and draw policy implications. The main content and implications of the analysis is as follows:
First, the government needs to determine the scope of its policy for addressing low fertility rates by focusing on the core tasks and enhance the policy instruments’ coherence with the objective. According to the analysis, some programs were not compatible with the purpose of the measures for addressing low fertility rates. Other budget allocations unrelated to fighting low fertility rates, of which the detailed budget items were difficult to categorize, were included in the budget allocated for tackling the low-fertility rate issue. Moreover, as programs change every year, the budget for addressing fertility rate issues failed to be managed on a continual basis. In this respect, the government should consider setting the policy scope to focus on core tasks such as prenatal/postnatal support and child care, while utilizing existing measures such as its youth policy and economic activity facilitation policy for women experiencing career interruption, as needed. Also, by adding tags to core projects within the program budgeting system, the government should explore ways to manage any net changes in related support systems.
Second, the accountability of governance driving measures to increase fertility rate should be enhanced. Currently, the secretariat for the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy is responsible for developing measures against low-fertility rates. However, this Committee is an advisory group conducting deliberation and counselling, and thus has no authority regarding policy decisions and budget allocations. This has made it difficult to clarify which party is accountable for such policy. In particular, the administrative ministries with authority over policy decisions and budget allocations may potentially avoid exercising their authority and responsibilities. Therefore, in order to enhance the government’s responsibility for measures to tackle low fertility rates, administrative ministries such as the Ministry of Health and Welfare as well as the Ministry of Economy and Finance should spearhead relevant policies.
Third, when pursuing the policy to address the low-fertility rate issue, the government should give consideration to policy effectiveness from the beneficiaries’ perspective. For example, daycare centers and kindergartens have different requirements for their faculty members and childcare/education environments, which are likely to result in gaps in the Nuri curriculum commonly provided to children aged 3-5, calling for a solution. Also, the after-school care service hours should be extended in line with the demands of school-age children. As gaps in the receipt rate are emerging depending on the size of the particular business and industry, the Maternity Benefit provided to support work-life balance should be improved in terms of equity. Moreover, housing support for youths and newlyweds should be provided to match the needs of policy target group, while at the same time strengthening the effectiveness of the scheme.