Seoul City announces 1.8 tln-won ‘birth encouragement’ project

SEOUL, The Seoul city government will spend nearly 1.8 trillion won (US$1.35 billion) this year to financially help residents have and raise children under its new "birth encouragement" project aimed at fighting the country's low birth rate, officials said Tuesday. The program came as the country's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- fell to a fresh low of 0.78 in 2022, well below the replacement level of 2.1 needed to maintain the country's population at 51.5 million. Seoul recorded a total fertility rate of 0.59 the same year, the lowest figure in South Korea. Under the latest project, the city will expand its program of renting public spaces as wedding halls, as well as its subsidy program for those undergoing infertility treatment or having female eggs frozen for future childbirth. Monthly child care subsidies will also be raised to 1 million won for parents with babies aged under 1 year and to 500,000 won for parents with babies aged 1 year, from t he current 700,000 won and 350,000 won, respectively. Beginning in May, the city will also provide incentives to small firms adopting labor policies in favor of child-rearing workers. In April, the city will also run a pilot test for special early-morning child care centers across the capital, where working parents can drop off their children before school hours. The numbers of public 24-hour child care centers and weekend nurseries will also be expanded to 17 and 21 across the city, respectively, while the number of households eligible for the city's home care services benefiting pregnant women, working parents and families with many children will also be increased to 10,000 from the current 6,000, officials said. Within the first half of this year, the city will also kick off a pilot project to supply immigrant domestic helpers, benefiting 100 families with a single parent, working parents or expecting mothers for six months, officials said. Source: Yonhap News Agency