South Korea is currently facing a significant decline in its birthrate, with a fertility rate of 0.78 children per woman in 2022, the lowest ever recorded in Korea and in the world
In response to this alarming trend, the city government of Seoul has announced a new initiative to provide subsidies for women who wish to freeze their eggs, aiming to reverse the country’s record-breaking low birthrates.
Starting from September 1, the government will offer up to £1,600 to 300 women between the ages of 20 and 49 who want to preserve their fertility through cryopreservation.
This scheme is open to women who desire to have children either now or in the future.
The declining birth and marriage rates in South Korea have raised concerns among successive governments, as they struggle to find long-term solutions. Over the past five years, the number of newlyweds has decreased by 23%, which has led to worries about the economy, national security, and the strain on the healthcare system as the country’s population rapidly ages.
The new initiative in Seoul aligns with opinion surveys that indicate a growing desire among Korean women, especially in the competitive job market, to freeze their eggs for future childbearing
According to a survey by CHA Fertility Centre, 69.8% of unmarried women and 64% of married women are willing to preserve their eggs. However, the cost of the procedure is a deterrent as it is not covered by national health insurance.
To support this program, the city authorities have partnered with the General Insurance Association of Korea, which has pledged a 4 billion won donation. This funding will help make the subsidisation of egg-freezing more accessible to women.
While these subsidies offer a step in the right direction, experts emphasize the need for a broader societal shift and changes in economic realities to encourage the younger generation to start families
Previous incentives provided by the South Korean government have not effectively addressed the underlying challenges, such as high housing costs and an expensive education system, which deter young couples from having children.
Additionally, it is worth noting that young women who choose to freeze their eggs while single may face legal restrictions on sperm donation and embryo implantation unless they are married. Such restrictions are increasingly being rejected as more women challenge patriarchal attitudes.
Overall, Seoul’s new initiative to subsidise egg-freezing represents a proactive step towards addressing South Korea’s declining birthrate. By providing financial support for women to protect their fertility, the city aims to encourage family planning and ultimately reverse the current trend.
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