Child care policy threatens toddlers’ psychological health
By Kim Jae-won
Korea’s oversimplifying childcare policies, which seem to take childcare centers as the solution for everything, pose a threat to the proper upbringing and psychological health of children, critics say.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare has been subsidizing parents who send their children of under 24 months to childcare centers with the government attempting to massage voters’ egos in an election year. However, critics say that the unselective nature of this policy is unsupportive of double-income households and others who truly need it as even non-working mothers in high-income households send their young toddlers to childcare centers.
Another problem of this policy, according to health experts, is that it encourages parents to become detached from their children at too young an age, which could cause psychological problems in the future.
The government introduced the so-called Nuri program in March to provide free day care for children less than 24 months of age from this year. The program is scheduled to be expanded to include daycare for three and four-year-olds starting in 2013, regardless of household income level.
Psychologists stress the importance of domestic child care because children can open their eyes to the world through communion and care directly from their mothers. Communion built based on maternal affection can be the source of a child's capability to cope with reality and frustration, they say.
Experts warn that the day care utilization ratio is feared to skyrocket in the coming years due to the government's decision to offer free child care to all households regardless of income.
Korea already ranked third among advanced nations in terms of the utilization rate of child care systems as of 2009 exceeded the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) under-30-percent guideline for toddlers' day care. The nation’s utilization rate of day care centers for kids under 24 months stood at 50.5 percent as of 2009, the third highest figure among the member nations of the OECD, according to its data.
Only two other OECD countries _ Denmark with 83 percent and Sweden with 66 percent _ registered figures higher than Korea’s in terms of day care for under-two-year-olds.
The statistics are particularly troubling, as the percentage of working mothers in Denmark and Sweden reached 72 percent and 76.5 percent, respectively, compared with Korea's 29.9 percent.
Experts say that a growing number of local mothers are expected to choose to capitalize on the subsidized child care program, regardless of their working and income status, increasing the risk of a moral hazard in Korean society.
Critics say that the government should stop the program and provide the subsidies to parents like other advanced countries. But, the government worries that parents may use the money for their own interests not for the babies, which shows their trust in parents is even lower than child care centers.