Working parents left with few daycare options
As all daycare centers for those under the age of 5 are already mostly full, working couples are challenged to find a suitable place to leave their children during the work day.
The government said it will give working parents priority to register their children at the centers starting July but there are doubts whether this will be possible.
Since the implementation of the free childcare policy for those under 2 in March, the number of babies up to 2-years-old enrolling in daycare centers has significantly increased.
This age group of babies up to 2 enrolling in daycare centers rose by 28.9 percent in April from a year before, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The free childcare policy has made it more advantageous for parents to leave their children at daycare centers instead of raising them at home because the government provides more subsidies for doing so. Parents receive 300,000 to 400,000 won from the government for leaving their children at daycare centers whereas they only receive 100,000 to 200,000 won if they take care of them at home. And subsidies for raising a child at home are limited to those on a low income.
Due to the large subsidies, every mom and dad wants to enroll their child even if they don’t need to. But such a massive tipping effect toward the daycare centers is causing a headache for those who really need them _ like working couples.
“I’ve been waiting for over a year to send my child to a daycare center but still haven’t been able to find one that has a vacancy. I asked all of the childcare centers near my home and office and all of them have turned me down,” said a working mom in her 30s.
Once children are enrolled in daycare centers from an early age, they continue until they’re old enough to enter kindergarten. This phenomenon has spread since the government’s implementation of the free childcare policy starting from infants at birth.
“Some mothers send their children to the centers even if they’re not working and can take care of them at home. This is because they get more support from the government by doing so and because it’s difficult to be enrolled in the first place. This is causing working moms problems because they’re the ones who really need to leave their children at the facilities,” said Lee Jong-jin, president of the Gwangjin-gu Association of Private Daycare Centers.
“Although there are some daycare centers with vacancies, mothers want to put their children in the most popular ones. This is why the good ones are always full.”
To resolve the problem, the government should do more than just build additional public facilities, she said.
“If the number of children reduces in the coming years, it could hit the facilities hard if they simply increase their number. Instead, the government should support the existing private centers and enhance their quality so that mothers will feel safe sending their children there. Giving longer parental leave after childbirth, for a year for example, could also be a solution. In fact, it’s better for the child to bond with their parents for the first year or so after being born.”