“South Korea risks extinction due to its demographic crisis,” said South Korean Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon on December 6, 2023. To try to stem this crisis, Lee Joong-keun , boss of Booyoung, a construction giant who made his fortune in rental properties, promised his employees 100,000 million won, or 70,000 euros, for each birth. “The low birth rate results from financial burdens and difficulties in reconciling professional and family life, which is why we decided to take such a drastic measure,” he justified during the New Year ceremony of the company this Monday.
The 84-year-old businessman is quite a famous figure in the country. He owes his notoriety to appearances in tax fraud cases, but also to his commitment to the social causes that are dear to him. And the demographic collapse of his country is one of these causes.
To show his seriousness, this Monday he paid an envelope totaling five million euros to the 70 employees who have given birth to a child since 2021. He intends to go further by providing apartments available to its employees who have three or more children. However, a choice will have to be made between the bonus and free accommodation. In this project, he is asking for a gesture from the State to obtain free land to build housing for large families.
South Korea is sinking into a declining birth rate without public policies being able to reverse the curve. The fertility rate is the lowest in the world, 0.78 children per woman on average. The government has, however, increased family allowances, the number of places in daycare and even the duration of parental leave, but nothing has done about it.
Booyoung's boss explained that his group's survival is in danger in the long term because of the demographic crisis. Current curves show that the South Korean population will be halved by 2100, according to a report from the statistical organization Statistics Korea dated August 2023. The group fears that it will no longer have enough customers or enough labor in the construction sector.
At the same time, other South Korean companies are mobilizing. If Booyoung has chosen a significant bonus, usually the benefits revolve more around working time. For example, the LG group has implemented parental leave that can last two years and gives three days of paid leave to employees who are taking infertility treatments.