Save the Poor--Patch the Holes in Social Safety Net
Save the Poor--Patch the Holes in Social Safety Net
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  • 승인 2005.01.01 12:01
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A four-year-old boy died of hunger and was left in a wardrobe by his parent. A woman in her 80s perished in a fire caused by candles she had lit to save energy. The two incidents recently demonstrate the plight of abject poverty in the dark corners of our society. Coincidentally or not, the boy parents were mentally retarded and the old lady was supporting two disabled sons. It is difficult to believe these events occurred in the world 12th largest trading power with a per capita income approaching $15,000. The two tragic deaths revealed how big the holes in the government social safety net are. The dead boy family of five used to go without food for one day per week, or for one full week per month. The parent earned about 1.5 million won per month working manual labor until October last year, but has remained jobless since. The family past maximum income, however, prevented them from eligibility for the basic aid from the government given to families of four that cannot earn 1.06 million won per month. Even if the family was entitled to the governmental aid, the mentally handicapped parent could not get it. They did not even know how to register as disabled to receive government support allocated for such people. Clerks at the neighborhood administration office went no further than explaining the necessary documents. These incidents clearly point to what the government should do. The officials ought to direct their foremost attention toward families with physically and mentally disabled members. The nation indifference to the handicapped is notorious but the government should at least ensure the minimum livelihood for those who cannot support themselves, however hard they might try, due to fundamental limitations. The government also needs to take greater heed of people belonging to the so-called ext-to-the-lowest income bracket, like the poor boy family, excluded from the basic support program. Amid the prolonged recession, they can fall to the lowest level in no time. There are about 1.35 million poorest people granted basic aids but the lives of an additional 1 million in the next-to-poorest class are no better off. The government should come up with temporary measures for them, at least until the economy takes a turn for the better. Most of all, it ought to increase the number of officials responsible for social welfare affairs, which now stands at only 7,012, or 1.7 persons, in each basic administrative unit. The government plans to redouble the number, but even that falls far short of industrial-country levels. Expanding the social safety net is one area in which the government should beef up its organization in exchange for drastic trimming in nonessential sectors.

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