South Korea wants to root out age-old prejudices against single parents and unmarried couples who live together, encouraging more people to have children in the battle against its stubbornly low birth rate and rapidly aging population.
The social pressure has proved a drag on a birth rate that ranks the lowest among rich nations, and coupled with a sluggish economy, has helped make first-time South Korean mothers the world’s oldest.
As policy-makers scramble to avoid the complications a dwindling population has brought to neighboring Japan, South Korea’s finance ministry is taking aim against social and regulatory prejudice in its economic policy plan for next year.
“We plan to change the social perception on various family forms to boost the birth rate,” the ministry said in a statement released on Wednesday, although it did not give details.
“We want to expand support for single mothers and also launch campaigns that will change people’s perceptions of couples living together,” said a finance ministry official, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to media.
South Korea’s birth rate of 1.205 children per woman is the lowest among the rich nations of the OECD grouping, where it is also aging the fastest. Its working age population will start shrinking in 2017.