The Korea Times

Moon Jae-in to brace for ag­ing so­ci­ety

- By You Soo-sun

South Korea is ag­ing fast, with the el­derly ex­pected to ac­count for more than 40 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion by 2060 ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics Korea. Moon Jae-in, the newly elected pres­i­dent, has promised to tackle this trend by in­creas­ing the birthrate and se­cur­ing a bet­ter liveli­hood for the el­derly.

The dire sit­u­a­tion fac­ing Korea’s el­derly has been well re­ported by the me­dia — im­ages of them col­lect­ing card­board and pa­per on the streets, for ex­am­ple, re­ceived global at­ten­tion. Statis­tics still back this im­age, with al­most half of the el­derly liv­ing in poverty.

A rem­edy pro­posed by all pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in the elec­tion could be in­creases in the ba­sic pen­sion. Moon’s pledge was one of the most pro­gres­sive — he pro­posed that the el­derly in the bot­tom 70 per­cent of the in­come lad­der will re­ceive a monthly al­lowance of 300,000 won ($265).

To stim­u­late mar­riage and birth, which has long been de­clin­ing, he promised to cre­ate a work en­vi­ron­ment more con­ducive to par­ent­ing and bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture for child­care. His poli­cies in­clude in­creas­ing paid parental leave ben­e­fits from 40 per­cent to 80 per­cent of in­come, pro­vid­ing a monthly child­care al­lowance of 100,000 won for ev­ery child un­der five, and ex­pand­ing pub­lic kinder­gartens and preschools.

Many still raise con­cerns as to whether Moon will live up to his prom­ises. His bud­get pro­posal has drawn con­stant crit­i­cism for fail­ing to lay out ad­e­quate funds and ways to col­lect them.

Pro­fes­sor Yang Jae-jin, who teaches wel­fare poli­cies at the Yon­sei Univer­sity Depart­ment of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion, sees the ba­sic pen­sion as cru- cial for the el­derly. He had a slightly dif­fer­ent view on how to dis­trib­ute the funds, how­ever. “I would in­crease the pen­sion for those in the bot­tom 50 per­cent of the in­come lad­der rather than 70 per­cent,” he said.

Over parental leave, he ar­gued that the cap on the ben­e­fits should be fur­ther in­creased. “Just in­creas­ing the in­come sub­sti­tu­tion ra­tio of preg­nancy leave to 80 per­cent will not prove ef­fec­tive.

The 2 mil­lion won cap for fa­thers, for ex­am­ple, will im­pede most fa­thers from ac­tu­ally re­ceiv­ing 80 per­cent of their in­come.”

He also sug­gested im­ple­ment­ing a sep­a­rate in­sur­ance sys­tem for parental leave, cur­rently cov­ered un­der the Em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance Sys­tem.

“The cur­rent sys­tem is un­pop­u­lar be­cause it takes funds away from un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance. The new ad­min­is­tra­tion should con­sider dif- fer­ent ways to pay for parental leave, such as bring­ing in a sep­a­rate in­sur­ance sys­tem as in Swe­den.”

Pro­fes­sor Kim Yeon-myung of Chung-Ang Univer­sity, who re­port­edly par­tic­i­pated in draft­ing Moon’s wel­fare poli­cies, high­lighted other as­pects of the pro­posal.

“The em­pha­sis of the draft was on im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture for chil­dren and the el­derly. This in­cludes in­creas­ing the num­ber of pub­lic preschools and child­care cen­ters as well as pub­lic hospi­tal ser­vices for the el­derly.”

Moon’s pledges in­cluded cre­at­ing more jobs for the el­derly; sub­si­diz­ing treat­ment costs for Alzheimer’s dis­ease and pub­lic care­giver ser­vices; and ex­pand­ing pub­lic hous­ing for the el­derly.

“Such plans re­ceived less me­dia at­ten­tion, but they are more crit­i­cal in ad­dress­ing the is­sues at hand,” Kim said.

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