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Birth rate to remain low without improving mothers' job opportunities: think tank SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will have difficulty raising its gravely-low birth rate unless it makes society a better place for working mothers, a private think tank said Wednesday. The Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI), quoting birth rate data from the

All News 16:29 June 14, 2006

SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will have difficulty raising its gravely-low birth rate unless it makes society a better place for working mothers, a private think tank said Wednesday.

The Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI), quoting birth rate data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said the country is unlikely to raise its birth rate above 1.26 unless the government makes it easier for mothers to find and retain employment.

South Korea's fertility rate fell to a record low of 1.08 per female in 2005, down from 1.16 the previous year, as more women decided to stay in the workforce and postponed having children, according to the latest statistics.

The birth rate figure represents the average number of babies that a woman in the 15-49 age range gives birth to during her lifetime.

Seoul has recently drafted a blueprint to raise the country's birth rate to around the 1.6-level where it was 10 years ago. It is mainly focused on making it easier to raise children and on improving public education.

However, SERI noted that the goal may be difficult to achieve without the government putting greater emphasis on rooting out a culture that discriminates against mothers in or seeking employment.

South Korea's mostly male-oriented corporate culture is renown for its lack of support shown toward married female employees, many of whom are forced into giving up their jobs when faced with difficulties of juggling a career and children-rearing responsibilities simultaneously.

The think tank argued that the country's employers need to become more flexible, such as allowing full usage of maternity leave and offering more flexible working hours for mothers.

Economic productivity would be seriously threatened if the country's rapidly aging population causes South Korea's economically active population to drop to 22.76 million by 2050 as the government expects. The number stood at 33.69 million as of the end of 2005, according to the latest government data.

odissy@yna.co.kr
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