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Looming demographic woes.

Time to find fundamental solution to plunging birthrate

The Republic of Korea is heading for the age of the so-called "demographic cliff" faster than expected with its birthrate dipping below 1, marking as low as 0.96 in 2018. This means that the proportion of the working age population is falling at an alarming rate, posing a serious threat to the country's overall economy and society.

The number of newborns is estimated to have sunk to a historic low of 325,000 last year, according to the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy. This is raising concerns over the country's competiveness with the fast-shrinking economically active population.

A society with a birthrate of lower than 1 is unsustainable on a long-term basis, if not immediately. The present population can be maintained only when an average woman gives birth to two or more babies in her lifetime. If the current trend of the lowest-ever birthrate continues, the number of deaths will exceed that of newborns resulting in an eventual depopulation effect.

Aware of the seriousness of the ever-dropping birthrate earlier in 2006, the government has been employing various countermeasures but to no avail. The nation is still short of daycare centers for infants. Private tutoring expenses are also too heavy. Young people have difficulties finding jobs. It is not that easy for newlyweds to find a home to live in due to the ever-rising housing prices. As a result, the number of young people who are choosing not to marry is rising, contributing to the dropping birthrate.

In short, the government has to change its policies focused on raising the birthrate. Fortunately, the Moon Jae-in administration has decided to concentrate on improving the quality of life first, creating an environment conducive to nurturing a family and promoting gender equality at work and home.

But it must come up with a more concrete and effective solution. It should expand the social safety net and offer more welfare programs to help young people find jobs, get married, reproduce and lead a decent life.

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Publication:The Korea Times News (Seoul, Korea)
Date:Jan 21, 2019
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