In an effort to see an increase in national birth rates, South Korea has begun to offer potential parents a series of benefits to having a baby, including monetary compensation.
According to CTV, South Korea currently holds one of the world's lowest fertility rates which the government hopes to reverse using a series of carefully constructed measures meant to encourage citizens to reproduce. The number of children a South Korean woman is expected to birth in her lifetime has dropped to 0.95, the first time it's dropped below one in the history of the country. As CTV reported, a birth rate of 2.1 is needed to maintain a country's stability.
As South Korea's fertility rate continues to drop, the current population is rapidly aging. In 2017, the country's elderly population was larger than those under the age of 14 for the first time ever, Quartz reported. South Korea is also already facing some of the highest levels of old age poverty in the world. While its population is currently 51 million, this is expected to start falling come 2028.
This wouldn't be the first time a region has had to make serious efforts to come back from a possible population decrease. When Germany reunified in 1990, former East Germany saw a devastating fertility drop from 200,00 births in 1989 to just 80,000 in 1994, according to The Diplomat. However, the East did eventually catch up to West Germany by the year 2011.
To account for its dramatic drop in birth rates, South Korea has pointed to the expense of raising a child, as well as long working hours, and limited daycare availability. Not to mention, the career sacrifices mothers are forced to make in order to complete household chores. Combined, all of these causes make for a serious dip in national reproduction.
The government has put forth a series of child subsidiaries to reverse this decline and will be offering up to 300,000 won (about $270 USD) a month to the richest 10 percent of families in the country. Additionally, beginning next year, parents with children under the age of eight will see a decrease in their daily work hours to allow for taking care of their families.
Paternity leave will increase from three days to 10 as well, so South Korean males can shoulder more of the responsibility of childrearing. The South Korean ministry has also announced intentions to build more daycare centers and kindergartens.
"This package is to focus on giving hope to people aged in their 20s to their 40s and to make certain that their quality of life does not deteriorate when opting for marriage and childbirth," Kim Sang-hee, vice chairwoman of the presidential task force to address the low birth rate, told CTV.