For Koreans wishing to have a child in 2017, there is good news. Starting in July 2017, those receiving infertility treatment will be guaranteed three days of unpaid leave per year. At the same time, paternity leave will increase from KRW 1.5 million (c. £1000) to KRW 2 million (c. £1250) fir fathers staying at home to care for their second children. Thirdly, the government plamns to have infertility treatment covered by health insurance from September 2017, and finally, from October 2017, the government will provide health insurance benefits for premature babies born weighing less than 2.5 kg.
The government plans to exert all possible efforts to raise the low birth rate that has characterised South Korea for many years. Koreas total fertility rate was 1.42 in 2011 and is projected to fall to 1.35 by 2035. The population will begin to decline in 2031 and reach 43 million by 2065, putting it on a par with the total population recorded in 1990. In 2065, the economically active population will decrease from nearly 38 million today to around 20 million, and the elderly population will increase from 6.5 million in 2015 to 18.3 million.
One of the main reasons for this trend is the tendency to marry later in life. Fewer people are getting married and the average age of women when they get married continues to rise compared with women of former generations. Housing prices have also soared when compared with the past, and that puts a greater financial burden on young Koreans.
The difficulty in getting good jobs leads to later marriages. Most high income countries have a similar feature – but in a country such as South Korea, where unmarried women account for a very low percentage of total births (1.9 per cent compared with 40.3 per cent in the United Sates), late marriages inevitably lead to low fertility rates.