As South Korea continues to hold the record for the world’s lowest fertility rate, families with newborn babies will be given a monthly allowance of 1 million won (approximately $745) to encourage more births.
The budget proposal was unveiled this week as a part of a series of election campaign pledges made by President Yoon Suk-yeol. Under former President Moon Jae-in’s administration, a 300,000 won (approximately $223) stipend was given to each family with a newborn child during their first year.
Yoon has addressed the country’s low fertility rate and demographic outlook as a national “calamity.”
The handouts will begin in 2023 with 700,000 won (approximately $521) a month before increasing to the full amount in 2024. When the child turns one, the stipend will be reduced in half and continued for another year.
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South Korea broke its own record of the world’s lowest fertility rate, with the expected number of babies per woman dropping from 0.84 to 0.81 in 2021. The country’s birth rate has been declining since 2015, and in 2020, more deaths were recorded than births for the first time.
In addition to declining fertility rates, women in South Korea are giving birth later in life; the average age of women having a child in 2021 was 33.4, 0.2 years older than 2020. The elderly demographic is also rapidly increasing, with the proportion rising by more than 5 percent between 2020 and 2021.
By 2100, South Korea’s population is expected to drop by 53 percent to 24 million people.
Several incentives have been introduced in recent years to address the declining fertility rate, including social campaigns encouraging men to take on childcare and housework roles as well as “new baby vouchers” handed out by authorities.
Although South Korea has allegedly spent hundreds of billions of dollars to fight its fertility crisis, there has been little progress, with only 260,000 births — 0.5 percent of the population — recorded in 2021.