Nine Observations on Korean Child Care Support and Their Policy Implications

Yun, Heesuk(Author)

  • 1161 ITEM VIEW

□ Korea’s public support system for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is in urgent need of reforms that will harmonize the objectives of social policy while improving service quality through linkages to financial assistance and information disclosure.

- A shift primarily attributed to politicians, support for ECEC in Korea has risen by 2.6 times in the past four years.

- Korea is the only country in the OECD where the child care facility usage rate exceeds the employment rate for mothers of infants.

- As a result of its failure to consider the meaning of “free child care,” Korea has developed a peculiar form of support in which the same benefits are provided to all households, regardless of the actual demand or income level

- Child care support is provided unilaterally to all facilities, without any ties to quality.

- Institutions may reduce service quality to turn a profit after paying high premiums for occupancy. But due to information infrastructure deficiencies, users have difficulties in accessing this information.

- Disparities in user costs can amount to as much as KRW 1.5 million, with large differences in teacher education levels, but it is difficult to compare them before making a choice.

- Permit restriction, which bar market access when the number of facilities exceeds the number of children in a given region, have the effect of promoting permit/certification transactions and lowering instructor compensation.

- Korea should strengthen child care support infrastructure, providing the necessary child care information so that parents can spend time with their children.

- Fiscal support should be tied to evaluation results, with reduced child care hours and extra availability for low-income/dual-earner households to reflect actual parent demand.

Issue Date
Korea Development Institute
Ⅰ. Mushrooming Support Without Guiding Policy Goals
1. Over the course of four years, fiscal support for ECEC has risen to 2.6 times its 2009 amount (from KRW 4.8 trillion in 2009 to KRW 12.3 trillion in 2013)
2. The only country in the OECD where the day care center usage rate exceeds the employment rate for mothers of children two and under

Ⅱ. Lax Government Oversight and Inadequate Quality Control
3. Day care centers and preschools receive financial assistance regardless of quality level
4. Entitled to public support even without applying the minimal safeguard of financial accounting rules
5. Child care center premium for occupancy of up to KRW 300 million
6. Severe disparities in teacher quality and user cost by institution type
7. Capacity-based entry restrictions prevent market exits by acting as de facto minimum profitability guarantee

Ⅲ. The Need for a Stronger Government Role
8. Weak infrastructure for the sharing of information regarding price and quality
9. No alternatives to cash-for-care and facility-based care
Series Title
KDI Focus No. 34.
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