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  • Benefits for first three months of childcare leave to be doubled from Sept. 1
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  • Aug. 21, 2017


    From September 1st, if a worker takes childcare leave, he/she will be paid higher childcare leave benefits amounting to 80% of his/her ordinary wage (min. 700,000 won ~ max. 1.5 million won) during the first three months of leave.


    The Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) said that an amendment to the Enforcement Decree of the Employment Insurance Act which contains this feature had been passed at a cabinet meeting held on August 21st (Mon.).


    < Background >


    For workers who take childcare leave, childcare leave benefits have been provided out of the employment insurance fund since 2001. When they were first introduced, the monthly benefit amount was 200,000 won. The amount was raised to 40% of the ordinary wage (min. 500,000 won ~ max. 1 million won) in 2011 and has remained at that level ever since.

    However, a recent survey found that workers are most concerned about an income decline due to the low benefit level when deciding whether to take childcare leave. It has also been pointed out that the level of childcare leave benefit in Korea is remarkably low compared with those in other advanced countries. Hence, the government has raised the amount of childcare leave benefit through the supplementary budget passed of late. 


    < Biggest concerns when deciding whether to take childcare leave (male) >


    Income decline

    Diminished competitiveness at work

    Increased work burden on co-workers

    Negative view

    Return to work








    (Korean Women's Development Institute, 2014)


    * (Childcare leave benefits in other countries) ▲ Sweden: 77.6% of the wage for the first 390 days and a fixed amount for the remaining 90 days, ▲ Japan: 67% of the wage for the first six months and 50% thereafter ▲ Germany: 67% of the wage, ▲ Norway: a choice between 100% of the wage for 49 weeks after childbirth and 80% of the wage for 59 weeks

    But in Korea, if both parents work, each parent can take one year of leave to care for the same child, so their aggregate childcare leave period could be two years, which is relatively long compared with other advanced countries.

    So, to begin with, the government has increased the level of benefit for the first three months of childcare leave with a view to preventing women's long career breaks and promoting take-up of childcare leave among fathers, thereby spreading a culture of co-parenting more widely.

    * (return-to-work rates by length of childcare leave taken, Korea Employment Information Service, 2016) The return-to-work rate was 91.2% for those taking childcare leave for less than three months, 90.8% for those taking childcare leave for three to six months and 81.1% for those taking childcare leave for six months to one year and 64.6% for those taking childcare leave for more than one year.  


    Taking into account the financial condition of the employment insurance fund, the government will raise the level of benefit for the rest of the childcare leave period later on. 

    The amendment to the Enforcement Decree of the Employment Insurance Act will come into effect on September 1st. In the case of people who are on childcare leave on the date of enforcement, the amendment will apply to their remaining leave period after September 1st. 


    < Expected effects >

    In 2011 when childcare leave benefits were changed from a fixed amount system (500,000 won a month) to a fixed ratio system (40% of the ordinary wage), the number of childcare leave takers surged by 39.3% year-on-year (41,729 in 2010 → 58,130 in 2011). If this is any guide, the childcare leave benefit increase effective from September 1st is expected to lead to a sharp growth in the number of childcare leave takers, especially among men.


    It is also expected to promote take-up of childcare leave among low-paid workers by helping stabilize the livelihoods of childcare leave takers and to have the effect of preventing women's career breaks by promoting their early return to work.


    The number of childcare leave benefit recipients has continued to grow since 2001 and reached about 90,000 last year.


    In particular, fathers' participation in child care is expanding in keeping with the era of co-parenting. The number of fathers taking childcare leave shot up to 7,616 in 2016. It stood at 6,109 as of the end of July and is expected to exceed 10,000 this year.


    * As of July 2017, the number of childcare leave takers totalled 52,435, of whom 6,109 or 11.6% were male.


    Moon Ki-sup, Deputy Minister for Employment Policy, said, "The childcare leave benefit increase will serve as a catalyst for stabilizing childcare leave takers' livelihoods and promoting take-up of childcare leave. By doing so, it is expected to help workers balance work and family life."


    He added, "However, in reality, the burden on employers caused by childcare leave and the implicit pressure workers taking childcare leave have to endure within the company is still large. To address this problem, the government will make efforts to create a better workplace culture that enables work-life balance and step up smart labor inspections for workplaces where childcare leave is insufficiently used."


    * (smart labor inspection) Workplaces which have a low take-up of maternity or childcare leave and are therefore suspected of providing poor maternity protection are found using the health and employment insurance databases linked together, and labor inspections are focused on those workplaces.





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