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South Korea: ‘It costs too much' to have a baby, more people are saying


clock03-28-2010, 11:22 PM
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‘It costs too much' to have a baby, more people are saying



With the lowest birth rate in history, young people in the country are saying it is "too expensive" to have a baby in the current economic slump.



Park Min-su, a 32-year-old corporate employee, has been married for three years. He does not have a child because he "cannot afford it." His family has been pressuring Mr. Park to have a baby, since he is the only son and the eldest grandson in his family and traditionally responsible for carrying on the family link by producing a child. However, Mr. Park and his wife are firmly saying "no" to having a baby.



"Let's say we had a baby. How are we going to raise him in this economy?" asked Mr. Park. "Saving for my retirement is the most urgent thing because I don't know how long I can keep my job," he added. "In order not to starve when I'm in my 80s, I have to save 400 million won ($349,000) to 500 million won in 15 years. It would be impossible if I have a child."



People who decided to have a baby seem to have the same concern about the financial consequences. "My wife gave birth to my little daughter 10 days ago. The hospital cost 800,000 won. The baby products cost 500,000 won. The recovery center for my wife cost 2 million won. Paying for my house and raising my daughter at the same time seems impossible," said a message written on a Web bulletin board. "Having a baby is not a joke."



Min Sang-gi, 36, who has a five-year-old boy, said that he gave up on having a second child. "Raising my boy costs about 1.6 million won a month. About 1 million is for preschool education," said Mr. Min.



In JoongAng Ilbo's survey of 679 men and women who are married, about 50 percent said that they are not having a baby for financial reasons. The cost of education and childrearing was too burdensome, said 70 percent of the participants.



In the 1960s, when people believed that babies would survive and grow without too much financial support, a fertile woman had about six children on average, according to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs. An institute report says that households spent an average of 1.3 million won per child in the country in 2003.



The number of babies born in the country last year was 49,350 ― the fewest in history. The domestic birth rate has plunged to 1.19 per woman aged 15 to 49, among the lowest in the world. The birth rate started falling drastically in 1999, after the financial crisis in the country.

Studies say that the low birth rate is "a disaster for the country." Fewer babies mean fewer taxpayers, fewer people to defend the country, and fewer workers.



These problems will hurt the economy and welfare system. The country will have many elderly people who have no economic security, experts say.

If the birth rate stays the same, the country's population would start declining in 2017, according to statistics. In 100 years, the population would be one third of its current total of around 48 million, with half the people aged 65 or older, according to the institute's report.



Along with economic insecurity, there are a few more reasons for the low birth rate. The greater number of working women is another significant reason. According to a survey by Korean Womenlink, a civic group for woman's rights, two thirds of working women who are married said they cannot have a baby because of a busy work schedule.



Seo Hyun-ju, 34, a working mother of a one-year-old boy, said, "I'm spending most of my salary on paying my son's babysitter. But I don't want to mess up my career, worrying about whether my baby is fine or not at an unreliable day care center."



The increased number of single people is also keeping the birth rate low, experts say. Delayed marriage plans for economic reasons and people's changed views of marriage are affecting the rate.



Han Sang-ho, 29, a graduate student, said he did not feel confident about finding a job. "I used to have a girlfriend, but I had to break up with her because her family didn't think my future was bright," said Mr. Han.

According to statistics, the average age for Korean women to marry for the first time is 27.3 years old. The age for men is 30.1 years old. The age for both sexes is three years higher than it was in 1990.



"Even though there are several reasons why young people are not getting married, the main reason is financial insecurity," said Kim Du-seop, a professor at Hanyang University. "The best policy to increase the birth rate is to give them jobs and financial security."



by Kim Si-re, Choi Sun-young
clock07-07-2012, 06:07 PM
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