July 28, 2023
SEOUL – Parents with twins and other multiple-birth babies could be given more subsidies, longer maternity leave and postpartum care support, the Korean government said Thursday in a new proposal.
Under the Ministry of Health and Welfare‘s plan, the amount of vouchers given to mothers of multiple-birth babies that can be used to pay medical bills for pregnancy or maternity services would be increased to 1 million won ($790) per child, from the current total of 1.4 million won.
This means if a mother is pregnant with quadruplets, she will receive 4 million won.
The Health Ministry said the change in policy comes as the number of births of twins and higher-order multiples have increased in Korea.
“Previously, the government‘s policies were tailored to single-birth babies. However, the proportion of multiple-birth babies is increasing with the recent increase in infertility procedures. So the government has decided to increase support to them,” an official from the health ministry said.
The rate of multiple births grew from 3.9 percent in 2017 to 5.4 percent in 2021, according to the ministry. Statistics from the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs also showed that the number of twins and multiple births slightly increased from 139,000 in 2011 to 140,000 in 2021, amid a steep decline in total number of births.
Women who undergo infertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization treatment or artificial insemination, have been found to have multiple-birth pregnancies at a higher rate than those who conceived naturally, studies have shown.
Other policies proposed include an extended period of time during which mothers can apply for reduced working hours due to pregnancy.
Due to a high risk of premature birth, mothers pregnant with triplets and other higher-order multiples will be able to claim shorter working hours from 32 weeks, four weeks earlier than other mothers.
Under the Labor Standards Act, pregnant employees whose pregnancies are within the first 12 weeks, or whose pregnancies have extended past 36 weeks may request the employer to shorten the employee‘s workday by up to two hours per day.
The Health Ministry will push to revise the Labor Standards Act with these changes.
The mothers, and their spouses, could also get longer maternity leaves of 15 days, as opposed to the standard 10 that all mothers receive due to the need for longer recovery time.
The schedule and details of the plans have yet to be decided, officials said.
In addition, the number of postpartum care assistants and the period of support will be increased for the mothers. Previously, the government subsidized up to two helpers for up to 25 days, but from 2024, the number of helpers corresponding to the number of newborns will be supported, and the subsidized period will be extended to 40 days.
“Starting with this measure, the ministry will continue to develop policies to tackle South Korea‘s low birthrate problem,” Minister of Health and Welfare Cho Kyu-hong said.