South Korea tries to fix its demogprecision dynamic corporationraphic crisisGlee Birthday Get Together Supplies - Okay Guys, I"ve Acquired A Single Word For You
SEOUL - In just over a decade, South Korea has spent the equivalent of a small European economy trying to fix its demographic crisis, yet birthrates have dropped to the lowest in the world.
This year, President Moon Jae-in, who describes himself as a feminist president, is testing a new angle: showing women more respect.
At the end of last year, South Korea announced plans to remove some of the disincentives for employing women, allowing both parents to take parental leave at the same time and extending paid paternal leave. Employers also get incentives to allow either parent to work fewer hours.
"Efforts on gender equality are very timely," said Shin Eun-kyung, an economist with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. South Korea is the worst place for women to work in the OECD, despite women being among the organization"s best educated, and more highly so than men.
But the measures go beyond the workplace: mothers can choose to give the baby their own last name and a tickbox on birth certificates showing whether a baby was born outside marriage will be removed.
Fertility treatments will be offered to single women and unmarried couples as well. Social campaigns will encourage men to participate more in child care and household chores.
South Korea"s demographic time bomb is ticking louder. The government"s latest forecast sees its population declining from 2027, and a presidential committee said the country"s economic growth potential could fall to below 1 percent.
Birthrates have long been a policy priority: since 2006, the government has spent 152.9 trillion won ($135.65 billion) - about the size of an economy like Hungary or Nevada - on perks for families and subsidies for children from birth through university and beyond. Last year"s 26.3 trillion low birth policy budget was more than half the military spending of the country.
But demographic experts say money is not the main issue: the experience of advanced countries with higher birthrates, such as France or Sweden, shows gender equality plays a crucial role.
About 56 percent of women aged 15-64 work in South Korea, below the OECD average of almost 60 percent, and 72-75 percent in Denmark and Sweden, where birthrates are among the highest of advanced economies.
Recruiters say married young women are less likely to get job opportunities due to discrimination.
In November, the Supreme Court upheld a four-year jail sentence against a former CEO of state-run Korea Gas Safety Corp over manipulating interview scores to knock women out of the hiring process.
While Samsung Electronics has a more balanced gender ratio than Apple globally, with women accounting for 45 percent of the staff versus a third at its US rival, only one in four staff at its Korea headquarters are women.
South Korea"s gender wage gap is highest among advanced countries at 34.6 percent, above OECD average of 13.8 percent.
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