Gov’t, PPP agree to increase financial support for multiple pregnancies, infertility treatments

The government and the ruling People Power Party (PPP) agreed Thursday to increase financial support for parents of multiple births and expand assistance for infertility treatments, in their latest efforts to boost the country's dwindling birthrate.

Under the latest measures, state allowances provided for multiple pregnancies will be increased from the current 1.4 million won (US$1,100) per pregnancy to 1 million won per baby, according to Rep. Park Dae-chul, the PPP's chief policy maker.

"The government and the party have recognized the need to restructure the support system in a groundbreaking way, given the rising number of multiple births and couples facing infertility," Park said. He noted the current system was initially designed to support single pregnancies.

The PPP and the government will work toward revising labor laws to allow pregnant women carrying multiple babies to have their working hours reduced starting from the eighth month of pregnancy. Currently, pregnant women can choose to work shorter hours by two every day starting from the ninth month of their pregnancy.

Under the envisioned plan, mothers of multiple babies will also be eligible for longer paid maternity leave compared with those with a single child, and these improved parental leave benefits will also be extended to fathers, Park said.

Additionally, state subsidies for infertility treatments will be expanded, regardless of the couples' income level. The income ceiling for the benefit is currently in place for some local governments.

A pilot program offering free fertility tests to both men and women will be launched in select regions next year, with plans to expand it nationwide by 2025.

The country's fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, fell to an all-time low of 0.78 last year, well below the replacement level of 2.1 that would keep the country's population stable at 51.5 million.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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