Learn From Abe - Japan's Birthrate Plan Has Lessons for Korea

Korea and Japan are both battling a low birthrate crisis and the problems of an aging society.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has placed boosting the birthrate at the core of his agenda to turn around Japan's demographic descent. President Park Geun-hye has also stressed increasing the birthrate as a policy priority. The difference between the two leaders is the urgency and strong leadership to implement policies that actually work for women and encourage them to have more babies.

A recent report said that Japan's rate recorded its highest in 21 years, with 1.46 children per woman. In 2005, the figure dropped to 1.26 during the height of Japan's recession. The increase is a result of consistent implementation of policies which were created in the mid-90s. Policymakers in areas of employment, healthcare and family issues need to vigorously study and benchmark Japan's example for boosting birthrate.

Park should show Abe's level of determination to stem the low birthrate. The first thing Korea needs is to establish a ministry devoted to the population problem. In Korea, it is uncertain which ministry is in charge of birthrate programs; they are scattered among various ministries.

This new ministry should focus on creating policies to assist women to reach their full potential at work, while having a happy home life. The unprecedented birthrate crisis stems from many reasons, but the one of the biggest is that more women shun having children because of rising costs and other burdens related to childcare. Many working moms have come to believe that Korea is one of the worst countries in the world to have and raise children. Changing this perception around is a lofty task, but one that must be addressed as a national priority to turn around the birthrate decline.

Korea's birthrate of just 1.21 is lower than Japan and is already one of the lowest among OECD countries. This will fall even further as the number of economically-active people will start to decline from 2017.

Unlike Park, Prime Minister Abe has demonstrated a strong determination to deal with Japan's low birthrate, and has pledged to increase the figure to 1.8 children...

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