06/21/2006, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Pro-birthrate social pact approved

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Government, business and labour pledge to work together to create new jobs for pregnant women and build better childcare facilities to reverse the declining birthrate.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The South Korean government approved yesterday a "social pact" aimed at battling problems arising from Korea's falling birthrate and aging population. The pact, which was reached after five months of discussion with religious, business and civic groups, includes more public childcare facilities (30 per cent more by 2010) and job creation for pregnant women.

South Korea's fertility rate fell to a record-low last year, with the average number of babies per woman of childbearing age at 1.08, reflecting women's increased economic activities and their tendency to marry late.

The committee that approved the pact was chaired by Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, Federation of Korean Trade Unions chairman Lee Yong-deuk, Federation of Korean Industries chairman Kang Shin-ho, and Korea Foundation for Women chairwoman Park Young-sook.

"The world's worst-level birthrate and the population aging on an unprecedented scale will bring us a reduction in the productive workforce, an increased burden in supporting the aged, and lead to great pains and a crisis in the future," the committee said.

The parties to the accord recognise the crisis developed from a system that puts primary responsibility for childcare and support for the aged on women, and from economic factors such as the instability of job opportunities and income, which prevent young couple from having children.

The government also agreed to continue discussions on ways to extend the retirement age of workers, while labour and businesses will negotiate on how to improve the retirement and wages system.

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