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(LEAD) PM pledges constant efforts to tackle low birthrate, promote work-family balance

All Headlines 17:37 August 25, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photo; more info in paras 7-9)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Thursday pledged "constant efforts" to tackle the low birthrate and promote a work-family balance, outlining the government's comprehensive package of programs to back the efforts.

During the government's policy coordination meeting, Hwang stressed that the government would strive harder to resolve "structural problems" that have caused the nation's birthrate to fall, such as unemployment, high education costs and housing-related issues.

The country's fertility rate has hovered around 1.2 percent since it dropped to a record low of 1.08 in 2005.

"(Aside from the government efforts) I urge people from all walks of life to join the efforts to reverse our country's low birthrate," Hwang said.

The prime minister added that the government plans to offer financial assistance for couples with fertility problems, strengthen efforts to curtail working hours for pregnant workers and support fathers seeking childcare leave.

To boost the birth rate and help workers strike a balance between work and family, the government has pursued a series of programs, including a flextime system, a tailored childcare program and an after-school education scheme.

Later in the day, Kim Hyun-sook, senior presidential secretary for labor and welfare affairs, said that the issue of the low birthrate can be resolved through consistent reform in the labor market, education and other areas rather than through short-term measures or mere financial aid.

Through such remarks, Kim underscored the need to pass a set of bills on labor reform.

The bills have been at the core of government efforts to create jobs and revitalize the economy. But critics have argued that the bills would undermine the quality of employment and "polarize" the labor market.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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