New fathers in South Korea will soon have cause to celebrate as they will be entitled to take up to 10 days of paid time-off from work when their baby is born starting this month. The government has stated that this measure is aimed to bolster the country’s record-low birth rate, a trend that has become all too common throughout the developed world as of late.
The Ministry of Employment and Labour announced that it has revised the related law in August to extend the days for paid paternity leave starting October, from current three days to 10 days at the maximum. The government also has plans in place to provide five days’ worth of pay to male employees taking paid paternity leaves to help supplement their income.
Many large companies in the country have been already allowing their employees to take 10 days off after their child’s birth, but most smaller firms have limited the paid paternity leave to three days due to cost and management burdens. As such, the implementation of this law is being done in the hopes of easing the burden on these SMEs.
By offering more work-life balance to workers, the government hopes the country’s total fertility rate, which measures the average number of children that would be born per woman during her lifetime, can improve after falling to a new record low of 0.91 in the April-June period, down from 1.01 in the previous quarter. Currently, South Korea is the only country with ultra-low birth rate with total fertility rate under 1.
According to another report released by Statistics Korea in August, 158,524 babies were born in the first six months of this year, down 7.7 per cent from the same period a year ago. It was the lowest figure for the period since the agency began compiling related data in 1981.
This is not the only issue that South Korea is facing in terms of population. The country is also known for its rapidly aging population. In fact, it is the fastest aging population in the world, meaning that the country’s working-age population is rapidly shrinking.
The extended maternity leave law is not the only measure that the government is taking to curb the population issue. Employees who have children under the age of eight are also entitled to reduced working hours for up to two years. Working parents of children with children enrolled in second grade of elementary school had been able to benefit from shorter working hours for up to one year.
Under the new system, employees are given an option of using a year of shortened working hours in addition to a year of childcare leave. They will be also able to use any un-used childcare leave for shorter working hours as long as the combined hours are within two years. This means that when an employee chooses not to go on a year leave, she will be able to take reduced working hours for full two years.
Employees are also being granted longer leave request period for their delivery date from 30 days to 90 days. Employees will be able to break down leaves by up to once.