SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- The ruling party said Thursday it will legislate a law to increase state assistance for childbirth costs within two years to try to boost the country's declining birthrate.
State subsidies for all expectant mothers will rise to 500,000 won (US$438) by 2012 from the current 200,000 won if the law goes into effect, Kim Seong-jo, the Grand National Party's (GNP) chief policymaker, told reporters.
The aid, given in the form of an electronic voucher from the government, is already set to rise to 300,000 on April 1 when a revised public health insurance law is enacted.
"At a time when the country's resources are limited, tackling the serious problem of the low birthrate first is the right thing to do," Kim said.
According to the latest statistics released by the World Health Organization, South Korea's birthrate -- or the average number of children born to each woman in her lifetime -- was 1.2 babies, the lowest among 193 countries and below the OECD average of 1.73.
The GNP also wants to turn unpaid paternity leave into paid leave, and extend the maximum period to five days from the current three by 2013.
Babies between the age of one and two will also get free vaccinations for hepatitis A, which normally cost about 80,000 won, from next year, Kim said. Daycare and kindergarten costs will be paid by the state except for families whose income falls in the top 30 percent bracket.
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