firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
Mom, please raise my kid
Both my wife and I are working, with 4-year-old girl. Years ago before my daughter turned one, I was frequently asked "Who takes care of your kid?" from my colleagues. It is fortunate that my mother-in-law runs a child-care institution which covers up to infants under one year. Since I am in very extraordinary situation, they reacted as if my answer had not been any helpful to their baby caring problem, and began grumbling that there was no proper person to take care of their kid.
As for parents of newborn babies, they come to face up with a tough problem that there is few institutions for babies under one, and it costs too much to hire a personal nanny. Although grand parents still tend to give a hand, they do not want to take over overall their baby caring, and if so, it does not last long.
Some might think that more child-care institutions especially for neonates and infants should be established. However, the plan is hardly feasible if it is not to return profits to society, because the government has already set up regulations against it. Those regulations, of course, originated from government's good-will to bring up children in more refreshing and affluent environment. Yet, at the same time, the government fixed the sum that the institutions can get for each baby. The institutions will hardly get sufficient profits if following the price policy, and those who want to begin the infant-care business will be likely to throw away the plan taking the opportunity cost into account. Some might call it unethical to get high profits by running a infant-care institution. However, newborn babies are considerably dependent and highly susceptible to community-acquired infections requiring hospital treatment sometimes. Moreover, there exists high risk of sudden infant death syndrome even without institute's responsibility. In short, it may cost an arm and a leg to bring up an infant. Nevertheless, the government forcibly lowered the price for the reason that all people should be able to enjoy the benefits of infant-care institutions 'equally'. Now, you can see the result. There are very small number of institutes available for newborn baby-care, and highly-paid care mothers are taking the place instead, taking advantage of a loophole in the law. It is like illegal private tutoring was more activated after prohibiting private extracurricular institutions about 20 years ago in South Korea. Ironically, the cost was mainly borne by lower-income class who have difficulty in meeting the extravagant sum. It is usual that lower-income parents who are busy working night and day need infant-care service more desperately than anyone else does. In the sense, the low-cost infant-care policy initially designed to help lower-income parents came to unexpectedly reduce the number of infant-care institutions in the market, giving them even more difficulty in finding the proper and affordable institution.
Although I am not an expert on economics, I would like to suggest several solutions in terms of market liberalism.
First, governmental regulations on infant-care institutions should be significantly reduced, except urgently-required minimum ones in the hygiene sector. The infant-care market should be more accessible so as to allow parents to easily commit their babies. It may result in more babies exposed to improper environment, but if there is any problem in infant-care institutions, parents of the babies, the biggest beneficiary of the service, themselves will be able to select better environment offering more reasonable price (since service-suppliers will grow up in the market competing one another).
Second, the government should lift all regulations on infant-care cost. It is obvious that the invisible hand will determine price of goods or services in the market in order to prevent illegal or unauthorized black market. In particular, as infants are highly susceptible because of immature immunity, it requires high attention and care to raise them all together. In the respect, that the government pressurizes cost of the service will simply lead the infant-care industry to become illegal, and put the children into dangerous environment. Some might worry that liberalization of price will remarkably drive up the infant-care cost, which, however, results from misunderstanding of market principle. If the price is once liberalized, the market providing diverse infant-care services will grow, and competition where relevant institutions try to supply safe and diverse services will be intense. While expensive institutions will be newly established, more services providing safe and affordable infant-care will be available at the same time as well. It will allow lower income class to get more options within their economic conditions.
Recently a number of newspaper articles dealing with shortage of infant-care institutions comes up with government's big support as a solution to the problem, but they are costs which can be met with public taxes or what our children will pay in the future. As an economist said, those costs are paid by 'our future hidden behind the tree'. More noteworthy is although considerable taxes as well as private costs are being consumed, infant-care institutions fail to provide creative and diverse services to customers due to government's intervention. If growth of the infant-care market continues to be intentionally oppressed (even though out of good will), a high-cost and nonprofessional black market will take the place, generating inefficient social cost even more. The question that I mentioned at first, 'who takes care of your kid?' is a common complaint of Korean parents who committed entire infant-care and education to the government. It is worrisome that young parents still see the problem from the socialist perspective.
Yoon Seong Jang (M.D., Ph.D. Teaching and Research Assistant Department of Biochemistry Medical College of Catholic University of Korea Currently on service in Daejeon)