[Editing] State child care policy turns back on have-nots

ORIGINAL

The Gender Equality Ministry has been seeking to inflate the success of its child care program by pushing to recruit families that do not require extra funding, while blanking those most in need.

According to a public document released by the ministry last year, it offers separate incentives to those who recruit families whose financial standings are relatively stable.

Families in those income brackets can be included in the ministry’s child care program without the need for extra government support, allowing it to claim that the uptake of child care has risen, without having to pay the extra cost of supporting needy families.

The ministry categorizes Korean households into four categories — Ga, Na, Da and Ra — according to their income levels, with Ga being families with the lowest income and Ra being families with the highest income.

As the least financially stable, Ga families receive the most support from the government when using the child care program, while Ra households are the only group among the four that do not receive any support from the ministry.

Households with three or more children, households with a person with disabilities, and single-parent households are prioritized for the government support for the service.

It currently costs 6,000 won ($5.43) an hour to have government-certified nannies to visit a home and care for their children. The ministry subsidizes this by 4,500 won an hour for the Ga families, 2,250 won for the Na families, and 1,250 won for the Da families.

However, as opposed to rewarding Ministry employees who recruit more families into the Ga group — the poorest and most in need of assistance — the Ministry has instead been giving separate incentives to workers who recruit families in the Ra category — the wealthiest households that do not require government backing.

“The ministry wants to promote the fact that many people are benefiting from the service, but they want to save as much money as much as possible,” said a member of the Precarious Workers’ Union in Public Sector, who represents recruiters and workers in the program.

“This is their way to increase the number of citizens who use the service, while minimizing their support cost for the poor. The more Ra families they recruit to the service, the more money the ministry saves.”

Rather than increase, the proportion of families in the Ga group who used the service has decreased significantly, from 54 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, the figure for the Ra group increased from 26 percent in 2010 to 38 percent last year.

Song Young-gwang from the ministry said the uptake of the service among “Ra” families was increasing because more people are aware that they can use the service as long as they pay the full price themselves.

“Many used to think you could use the service only if you were eligible for the government support,” he said.

The incentives are paid for with public money.

FINAL

The Gender Equality Ministry has been seeking to inflate the success of its child care program without increasing spending by pushing to recruit families that do not require financial support, while blanking those most in need, according to an official of the union for recruiters and workers in the program.

As families in the top income bracket can participate in the ministry’s child care program without requesting extra government support, the government can claim that subscription to child care has risen, without having to pay the extra cost of supporting needy families, the official said.

The ministry offers incentives to employees to recruit families to the child care program, according to a public document released last year. However, the ministry grants higher rewards for recruiting top-income families than for recruiting families from the lowest-income group — the poorest and most in need of assistance, the official added.

“The ministry wants to promote the fact that many people are benefiting from the service, but they want to save as much money as much as possible,” said the official of the Precarious Workers’ Union in the Public Sector.

“This is their way of increasing the number of subscribers while minimizing their support cost for the poor. The more top-earning families they recruit to the service, the more money the ministry saves.”

The total number of households that use the service, in which government-certified nannies come to the household to care for the children, nearly doubled from 27,400 in 2010 to 54,300 in 2014.

In that period, the proportion of subscribers from the top income bracket increased from 26 percent to 38 percent, but figure from the lowest quartile dropped significantly from 54 percent to 41 percent.

The ministry subsidizes the child care service for the bottom three income brackets by 1,250 won to 4,500 won an hour, while the top-earning quartile -– households earning 4.83 million won or more per month — pays the full price of 6,000 won an hour for the service.

Households with three or more children, households with a person with disabilities, and single-parent households are prioritized for government subsidies.

The ministry, for its part, said the service was becoming more popular among top-earning families because more people learned that they could use the service as long as they paid the full price themselves.

“Many used to think you could use the service only if you were eligible for the government support,” said Song Young-gwang, who oversees the child support programs.

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