The 3rd National Debate on “Demographic Crisis” was Successfuly Held
- Kim Jin Pyo, Speaker of the National Assembly, stated, “We need to evaluate the response policies regarding the low birthrate implemented over the past 18 years and prepare alternatives.” -
- Jeong Chun-suk, Chairperson of the Health and Welfare Committee, stated, “Resolving the low birthrate should begin with powerful gender equality policies.” -
On April 25, at 9:30 AM, the Republic of Korea’s National Assembly, under the leadership of Speaker Kim Jin Pyo, successfully held the 3rd National Debate at the 1st meeting room of the Member’s Office Building under the theme of “Low Birthrate Response Policies: Do’s and Don’ts”
Speaker Kim Jin Pyo emphasized that “the demographic crisis is a fundamental issue that will determine the existence of South Korea, in the way that it undermines the foundation of our society.” He hoped “this debate be a milestone for plainly evaluating the response policies regarding the low birthrate pursued over the past 18 years and formulating alternative policies.”
In her congratulatory remarks, Chairperson Jeong Chun-suk highlighted that the low birthrate issue of South Korea is so severe that even foreign media has taken notice of it. She also stressed that serious responses should begin with “implementing strong gender equality policies, such as addressing glass ceilings and ensuring equal pay for equal work.”
In subsequent congratulatory remarks, Lee Kiil, the First Vice Minister of Health and Welfare, emphasized “the urgent need for structural and fundamental policy changes to support the marriage and childbirth of the young generations.” He also mentioned that the government is reviewing the policy directions to tackle the low birthrate and making effors to reflect the aspirations of young people of “creating conditions for them to raise children themselves rather than relying on the government” by engaging in continuous meetings with them.
In the second part of the presentation, Kang Dae-hoon, Head of the Society and Culture Research Office at the National Assembly Research Service, presented on “What We Have Been Doing As Part of Response Policies for Low Birthrate.” He emphasized the need to strengthen the substance of policies directly supporting families, such as child allowances, parental leave, support services for work-family balance, and compliance with statutory working hours, in line with the spirit of the “select and focus” strategy. Moreoever, he said that it is necessary to build social consensus on reform plans that enhance the effectiveness of structural response measures, including employment, housing, and private education policies. Subsequently, Choi Byongkwun, Assistant Chief of the Budget Analysis Department at the National Assembly Budget Office, gave presentation on “The Budget We Have Spent on Addressing the Low Birthrate.” He pointed out that a significant portion of the low birthrate budget was spent on policies with relatively low direct relevance, such as housing support and youth support projects, and emphasized the need to raise the proportion of family budget to GDP to the level of major foreign countries.
During the discussion session moderated by Lee Samsik, Director of the Institute of Aging Society at Hanyang University, Choi Seulki, Professor at Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management, agreed that overly comprehensive goals, such as “improving the quality of life,” need to be narrowed down. He stressed that discovering effective policies is more critical than simply increasing budgetary allocations. He also emphasized the importance of contemplating structural approaches, such as increasing the income replacement rate for parental leave, as much as emphasizing cash-based policies. Kim Eun Ji, General Manager of the Division for Planning and Coordination at the Korean Women's Development Institute, stated that it is challenging to delineate the boundaries of low birthrate policies with the current framework of the “Basic Plan for an Aging and Low Birthrate Society” and emphasized the urgency for society and the government to send a signal to the youth that it is possible for both men and women to work and raise children together. She added that it is necessary to consistently implement policies such as guaranteeing care time for coupples, providing high-quality care services, and universally distributing child allowances under such a firm direction. Im Ah-young, a reporter from Kyunghyang Shinmun, pointed out that the awareness of young people has significantly changed and emphasized the need for bold implementation of policies supporting the work-life balance, such as reducing working hours and prohibiting discrimination against care providers. The issue of low birthrate must be seen as the issue of labor and be addressed not only by the Ministry of Health and Welfare but also by the Ministry of Employment and Labor.
Shin Kkot-Shi-Gye, Director of the Bureau of Population and Child Policy at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, mentioned that the direction emphasized during the debate largely aligns with the government’s direction and said that she is planning to review policies for the 5th plan by the second half of the year since the announcement of a new policy direction on “Society Where Marriage, Childbirth, and Childcare Can be Happy Choices” on March 28. Cho Hyun-jin, Head of the Population and Economic Division at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said that she would consider the suggestions made during the discussion as homework remaining to be done. She also said that she is considering measures such as support projects for small and medium-sized enterprises, introduction of a flexible working system, and reinforcing methods for housing support policies for an increase in the income replacement rate for parental leave as part to complement the role of the Committee on Ageing Society and Population Policy.
The National Debate, organized and hosted by the National Assembly Secretariat and National Assembly Futures Institute, was broadcast live on the National Assembly TV and its YouTube channel, and the debate materials are available on the National Assembly Futures Institute website.
During the national debate, which is designed by the National Assembly to create an opportunity to lead the national agenda, National Assembly’s Special Committees, National Assembly’s affiliated agencies, and other relevant institutions will jointly study and discuss national pending issues that can shape the future of the Republic of Korea. Following the Third National Debate, subsequent debates are scheduled to be held on topics such as the education reform, high-tech industry.