South Korea holds a world record: that of being the country with the lowest birth rate, as revealed by data from Statistics Korea (Kostat), in 2021. In an attempt to reverse the trend, the South Korean minister Korean Labor, Lee Jeong-sik, announced on Monday, January 9, an upcoming measure aimed at extending parental leave, and thus pushing couples to procreate.
Both men and women will soon be allowed to stay with their newborn for eighteen months, or a year and a half, compared to a year now.
Once this law is passed, South Korea will become the country with the longest parental leave in the world (no date has been provided yet).
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While the fertility rate has only dropped for the past six years in the country, this decision is therefore intended to encourage South Koreans to have more children, as reported by
In South Korea, the birth rate is 0.81 children per woman.
In other words, less than one birth per household.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it would be necessary to reach 2.1 children per Korean woman to maintain a stable population, and by extension, a workforce for society.
By comparison, the fertility rate was 1.37 children per woman in Japan in 2020 and 1.66 in the United States in the same year.
A culture of work
According to the country's top leaders, the rising cost of living and the work culture are creating an imbalance between professional and private life, pushing couples not to engage in family life.
However, while many are betting on extending parental leave as a guarantee of serenity and therefore of procreation, South Korea has been investing in this direction for several years without any real results.
Over sixteen years, nearly $200 billion has already been invested in parental leave and childcare organizations.
Observation: the country of nearly 52 million inhabitants is currently the one that continues to age the fastest.
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Will this new measure bear the expected fruit this time around?
Nothing is less sure.
However, there is no longer any need to prove that parental leave reduces the stress associated with raising children, contributes to improving gender equality within households, thus improving the mental health of pairs.
There is no doubt, therefore, that its extension will bring benefits to the population.
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