Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yesterday workers were sent home to make babies

Here's the article from Korea Times, titled, "Ministry Blackout for 'Procreation'


By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

On Wednesday, all the lights at the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs building in central Seoul will be switched off at 7 p.m. Announcements will be made urging staff to stop working and go home.

This not a wartime exercise or a fire drill. But it is a more desperate operation for the ministry, which is struggling to counter the country's low birthrate, even within the organization.

It is a ``Family Day'' event, where all staff members are encouraged to return home on time every third Wednesday each month and spend quality time with their family, and moreover, hopefully, have more kids.

``We will turn off all the lights and nowhere ― even in the pressroom for reporters ― will there be an exception,'' a spokesman said.

This is the first time the ministry will have turned off the main lighting for Family Day.

The ambitious plan kicked off years ago, but the turnout was low. Due to a hectic workload, most staff didn't dare leave for home early. ``The blackout will remind everyone about being a family guy or a good mother-daughter,'' the spokesman said.

Since taking office in September 2008, Minister Jeon Jae-hee has set her priorities on raising the birthrate. Ironically, her ministry workers' average rate of 1.16 per couple is below the average of civil servants ― 1.82.

To hike the rate, the ministry has introduced incentives for officials having more than two children. Gift vouchers worth 2 million won will be given upon the birth of a second child while the amount will be raised to 3 million won for the third birth.

Workers who take maternity or paternity leave will not be given any disadvantages in promotion.

Female workers with children under 12 months old will also be able to have more flexible schedules. Pregnant workers will be excluded from any emergency work.

Jeon told The Korea Times that more births were desperately needed. ``It won't be too long before our children are burdened with supporting the elderly. Korea may lose out in the global economic competition due to a lack of manpower. It is actually the most urgent and important issue the country is facing," she said.

The ministry plans to have the blackout every month from now on.