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Shortly after China announced that its population had shrunk for the first time in more than six decades, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned that his country’s low birth rate and aging population were a ” grave danger”.
“Japan is on the cusp of a stage where we may not be able to continue as a functioning society,” Kishida said.
After the country’s birth rate fell to a new record high, Tokyo officials announced they would double spending on child-related programs to try to encourage people to have more children.
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What is the only rich country that does not provide paid maternity leave?
But Japan and China are not the only countries facing these problems, and here are the ways and measures by which countries with similar problems are trying to increase birth rates.
Very long maternity leave
Boriana Andreeva Gramatikova, 33, received her full monthly salary for 12 months after the birth of her son in Bulgaria.
“In the first year of maternity leave, a woman gets 90% of her salary and in the second year she gets minimum wage,” she told the BBC.
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At 22%, the elderly population in Bulgaria is one of the highest proportions of countries over 65 in the European Union, according to the World Bank.
To help reverse the problem, Bulgaria has introduced one of the longest periods of full-pay maternity leave in the world.
Only half of the countries included in UNICEF’s Developed Countries Report provide at least six months of fully paid maternity leave. While Estonia offers mothers the longest leave with full pay, at 85 weeks, the United States does not have a national paid leave policy.
“There’s some security in having about two years off to raise your child,” Gramatikova said.
“You have the chance to connect with your child and if you have a sick child (like me) and you have to be there knowing that you can stay with him and at the same time not lose your job, it gives you a sense of security and comfort,” she added.
But despite this generous policy, Bulgaria is set to lose 20% or more of its population by 2050, according to the United Nations.
Although maternity leave is long and paid, the country is still hostile to parents in other respects.
“There are many other issues, such as lack of professional childcare help, low wages, hyperinflation, high house prices and a huge gender pay gap,” Gramatikova said.
Large payments for young mothers
While Bulgaria is offering extended paid maternity leave in a bid to boost its low birth rate, South Korea is trying a different solution: financial aid.
Starting this year, every family with a newborn in South Korea is entitled to a generous monthly allowance of around $745.
The reason for paying such a generous amount is very simple.
Within two years, a fifth of South Korea’s population is expected to be over 65, according to the National Statistics Agency.
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Like many other countries, South Korea is struggling to ensure that its health and social system is ready and effective to deal with an aging population, but its problems have worsened when the country has plunged at the rate lowest fertility rate in the world in 2022.
This is why the government reacted by tripling the so-called child payment, paid in full for one year, and when the child is one year old, the amount is divided by two.
The country’s policymakers seem to hope that the payments will have a significant impact on the country’s demographic trajectory.
Lee Sang-rim, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Health and Welfare, told BBC Korean Service in 2022: “In just 20 years, South Korea is expected to overtake Japan and become the world’s oldest aging population. of the world”.
rely on robots
Japan is known for its love of technology, so it’s no surprise that it has turned to robots to help it cope with its aging population.
And the country’s aging workforce is already beginning to hamper Japan’s economy, according to the World Bank.
Thus, in addition to its plan to double the budget for childhood policies and create a new government agency to combat the aging population, the Japanese government is also investing in robotics to make life easier for the elderly.
With the help of government funding, Japanese companies are investing in care robots, including dog and seal robots, to help caregivers.
Bots are designed to be able to monitor users, engage in conversation, and facilitate movement.
Dealing with the consequences of the one-child policy
The Chinese government has been offering tax breaks and better health care to mothers since scrapping the controversial one-child policy in 2016, allowing couples to have two children.
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Why will Koreans soon be a year younger?
Chinese President Xi Jinping made raising birth rates a priority in November 2022, but it turns out that raising birth rates is much more difficult than lowering them.
China’s population will decline for the first time in six decades in 2023, with a birth rate of just 6.77 per 1,000 people.
Xi Jinping pledged his government would “pursue a proactive national strategy” to contain the country’s aging population.
But the future does not look bright: according to United Nations projections, the number of Chinese aged 15 to 64 will fall by more than 60% this century.
There are fears that an aging workforce will affect China’s huge economy and of course any slowdown in China’s economy could impact the whole world.
education for life
Singapore is one of the fastest aging societies in the world.
To help the workforce meet the challenges of an aging population, the government has invested in lifelong learning initiatives.
According to these initiatives, some universities offer industry-related courses that even 20-year-olds can enroll in, while others offer graduate loans to cover course fees for new and emerging skills, according to the World Bank.
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Singaporeans can also make use of the long-term insurance annuity scheme, which provides them with monthly payments until the end of their lives, reducing the risk of overextending their retirement resources.
The government says its motto is “No matter how long you live, you never have to worry”.
The system is financed by compulsory monthly contributions deducted from the person’s account and paid monthly during old age while the person is still alive.
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