Another day, and another article on why South Korea is demographically screwed due to the lowest birth rate among 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The main problem? Korea’s workaholic culture and businesses who refuse to adopt a kinder system. An interview with the OECD researcher who worked on the report:
“How can we implement that system in Korea?
South Korea has the world’s longest working hours, which means that children must stay at day care centers for more than 10 hours. Simply expanding child care facilities won’t resolve the problem in this situation. Korea’s policies must be more sophisticated so that the child care system and parents’ working conditions can complement each other.
France’s birth rate increased because the government provided more family allowances. Can we use the French system as a benchmark?
France focused on a baby bonus, but it’s different in Korea. In Korea, private education expenses – which simply don’t exist in other member countries in the OECD – largely affect the birth rate.
What do you suggest for South Korea?
The labor market must change. And it’s important for business managers to recognize that and attempt to change the situation. They also need to provide paternity leave. Allowing only women parental leave stigmatizes investment in female workers. If men use paternity leave, it will reduce discrimination against female employment and balance out work and family life.”
This is exactly the same conversation that was going on when I moved to South Korea in 2008. Which is to say, top-down government polices aren’t going to work if actual companies, big and small, won’t meet them half-way when it comes to a work culture that will punish you for actually wanting to spend more free time with your family.
Also, “private education expenses.” Or, hagwon.