By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, April 25 (Yonhap) -- Turning to immigrant workforces can provide a solution to South Korea's dire population crisis following low birth rates, an economics professor at the University of Chicago said Tuesday.
Michael Kremer, a Nobel laureate, made the remark during an interview session hosted by the Korea Development Institute, around a week ahead of the annual Asian Development Bank (ADB) meeting, which will run for four days starting Tuesday in Songdo, Incheon, 36 kilometers west of Seoul.
Kremer will also be present at the bank's first in-person gathering since the pandemic began.
"While Korea may be able to take steps to increase the birth rate, this has proved difficult in other countries. The way that most developed countries with low birth rates maintain their working age population is through migration," Kremer said.
The number of babies born in South Korea dipped to yet another fresh low in January by sinking 6 percent from a year earlier, reflecting the dire population crisis in Asia's fourth-largest economy. The figure has been falling on-year for 86 consecutive months.
"Allowing migration to developed countries could create large fiscal and welfare benefits," the professor said, noting it is also possible to "design politically feasible and economically beneficial programs."
Kremer cited Hong Kong and Singapore as examples of countries that have successfully implemented large-scale special visa programs for foreign private household workers, which are less likely to raise social concerns compared to other types of migration programs
Touching on the income gap and digital divide between developed and developing countries, Kremer said South Korea can lend a hand to the area, as it is "a leader in digital technology innovation."
"Korea could serve an important role in supporting countries in areas ranging from educational technology to digital agriculture, digital health, and e-government," the professor said.
"These are all areas where private sector investment alone may be inadequate, and Korean expertise may be useful."