Korea's birth rate is now the lowest among OECD countries. As such, all Korean fathers and mothers busy themselves building bright futures for their children. Many parents who used to spend so much time in the workplace, whether doing professional work or physical labor, finally started to make compromises for the welfare and future of their children. The solution was to "have only one baby and to bring him or her up in a better way." These days, many Koreans think that having one child will allow them to invest more money in their child's future, and to raise their standard of living.
In the past, people who had just reached nubile age were asked how many children they wanted to have, and why they did not marry earlier. People even asked those whom they had just met for the first time how many children they had. Our society used to be one where delivering a baby was seen not as a right but as a duty. But times have changed. These days, people are usually asked about their jobs, rather than whether they are married or how many children they have. This indicates a shift in the social climate; the number of a single family has increased by leaps and bounds, and many people prefer to marry at a later age.
Along with the phenomenon of late marriages and the increase in the number of a single family, the alarmingly low birth rate has become a serious social issue, once again leading to a change in the country's social climate; women are now compelled to have babies. The current birth rate is just 1.17%, which is envisioned to significantly and adversely affect the country's national competitive power in the future. This prompts many people to suggest that women discard their selfish thoughts and stop being feminists, and to participate instead in the campaign to raise the birth rate for the sake of the country's future. The Ministry of Health and Welfare's "2-3-4 Childbirth Promotion Campaign," the Home Economics Department's organization of events where men and women can meet or have blind dates, and the policy of giving a couple support money when the woman gives birth to a third baby are only some examples of the major measures currently undertaken to promote childbirth.
The most important realization we can arrive at regarding the current birth rate issue is, I think, that our present society is in crisis not because women don't want to have more babies, but because the functions of family members - particularly those of fathers and mothers - have changed to a great extent. Any further discussion of the said issue must have this as its starting point.
People usually have a hard time in understanding the shift in the traditional view of the family. Clearly, the present reality of family life is very different from that in the past. However, people still think that career women should give up their other dreams of marriage if they want to keep their jobs. Truly, before we can understand changes in the family, we need to understand changes in society. Then and only then, can we determine how we should cope with the changes in the family.
We should understand the various functions of family members, particularly of fathers and mothers in present-day society, which struggles with issues such as a low birth rate, the rise in the number of single mothers and career women, the increasing frequency of international marriages that comes with the phenomenon of globalization, and the insufficiency of social welfare benefits provided by the government. If we truly understand and acknowledge the functions of family members, particularly of fathers and mothers, and the present realities in our society, we will undoubtedly be better off. We will all be rich!
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