Subsidy 24 in Korea

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DECEMBER2021

In Korea the debate concerning welfare blind spots has been going on for some time now. The Korean government has taken an interest in issues related to welfare blind spots and promoted policies to resolve them in earnest since 2014. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has surveyed welfare blind spots comprehensively and announced the restructuring of the customized payment system of the National Basic Livelihood Security Scheme and the mitigation of the selection criteria. In addition, it has steadily increased the assistance budget. In 2019, the amount of welfare expenditure was increased by 4.1 times compared to 1990, showing the fastest increase among the member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). National assistance in the social welfare sector amounted to KRW 97.9 trillion (17.5%) out of the government budget of KRW 558 trillion as of 2021, and local governments have also set aside their own welfare assistance budgets.


1. Background to promotion

One of the main reasons for the existence of welfare blind spots, i.e. areas where assistance is not properly delivered, is the failure to fully publicize, or raise public awareness of, the benefits of welfare services. The government is now making efforts to offer guidance and advertise its policies through various channels such as the press, the Internet, and social networking services for the benefit of citizens who need welfare services. Nonetheless, welfare blind spots still remain, and socially disadvantaged persons or groups who urgently need welfare benefits are often separated from their local communities or face many difficulties in obtaining or checking welfare service-related information by themselves. It is also cumbersome for members of the general public to search the websites of the relevant ministries by themselves or visit government offices to obtain information about which welfare benefits they may be eligible to receive among the many different welfare schemes.

 

 

2. Details of promotion 

To solve these problems, the government has introduced the “Subsidy 24” system, which allows citizens to check and apply for welfare services simply by logging in to Government 24, without having to visit individual institutions or websites in person. The USA (benefits.gov) and the UK (gov.uk) are also providing this kind of service to improve access to information, but their services are limited to the provision of guidance and information about customized benefit services, and citizens have to follow a question and answer process and provide personal information such as their date of birth, address, and income. In Korea, members of the public previously had to check the websites of the institutions concerned one by one in order to find out whether they were eligible for benefits or welfare services or to obtain assistance. Now, however, they can check and apply for customized services according to their individual needs simply by logging into the Government 24 website. 

The Ministry of the Interior and Safety established a plan to gradually expand the target of customized guidance and online applications over a period of three years from 2020 to 2022, of which the first phase was completed in 2020. Since February of this year, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety has conducted and completed a pilot operation targeting 13 local governments*, and officially opened the service for all citizens on April 28. Now, all citizens can consult customized guidance on 305 services provided by the central government, including subsidies for work and children and the Youth Tomorrow Chaeum Deduction (the provision of tax benefits for youth in order to encourage employment in SMEs and induce long-term employment) at a glance. The service can be accessed online at the Government 24 website or via the related app. In addition, the system is being improved and collaboration with local governments is being promoted to enable disadvantaged groups such as the elderly to use the Subsidy 24 when they visit community centers.

* Incheon (Yeonsu-gu, Michuhol-gu), Daegu (Dong-gu, Seo-gu, Suseong-gu, Dalseo-gu, Dalseong-gun), Chungnam (Boryeong-si, Asan-si, Seosan-si, Seocheon-gun, Cheongyang-gun, Hongseong-gun)

 

In February and April of this year, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety checked the readiness status of Subsidy 24 by appointing a person in charge of eup, myeon, and dong 3,419 Community Centers to offer customized guidance on offline Subsidy 24 targeting the pilot areas and to provide education. In May, on-site visits were paid to local governments* to investigate their difficulties in providing the offline service and to derive improvements. All these efforts have helped to consolidate the foundations for the provision of more convenient public services.

* Seoul (Gwanak, Songpa), Busan, Gwangju (Gwansan, Seo-gu), Gyeonggi (Suwon, Uijeongbu, Namyangju), Jeonbuk (Iksan, Wanju), Gyeongnam
 
The Ministry of the Interior and Safety will implement the second phase of Subsidy 24 from the end of 2021, thereby enabling the provision of not only 305 customized information services among the 1,000 welfare services provided by the central government, but also around 3,000 customized guidance services out of the 6,000 services provided by the metropolitan and basic local governments. Furthermore, the number of online services that can be applied for directly via Government 24 has been increased significantly from 25 to around 300. There are also plans to broaden the range of people who can receive customized guidance, so that citizens can check services not only for themselves but also for members of the same household or family members living with them. Moreover, the service, which was previously provided through personal computers, mobile apps, and visits to community centers, will be linked to the home visit service, etc. in order to expand the channels of access to the Subsidy 24 service for the socially disadvantaged so that the citizens can receive their benefits more conveniently and easily.

Phase 3 of the Subsidy 24 project, scheduled to start in 2022, will expand the scope of eligibility for the guidance and application services and customized guidance further than that of Phase 2. Information and application services will also be established for diverse services provided by public or private organizations, such as the Data Youth Campus of the Korea Data Agency, the online scholarship of the Korea Gas Corporation, and support for the hearing impaired by KT&G (Korea Tomorrow & Global Corporation Welfare Foundation). In addition, the range of services that can be applied for online will be expanded further. As the range of eligible recipients will be extended to include family members on the Family Relations Register, it will also be possible to check the benefits available to grandparents by using the service.  

The government has promoted advertisements through various channels in order to improve public access to welfare benefits and to ensure that eligible persons do not miss out on the benefits, and has raised awareness and use of the Subsidy 24 system. Subsidy 24 aims to enhance the quality, reliability, and transparency of public administration through citizens’ participation in the policy process, in keeping with the country’s status as a mature democracy, by actively encouraging citizen participation rather than relying on unilateral policy advertisements by the government. The name of Subsidy 24 was chosen by voting on the brand name and a design proposal for national assistance customized services. The government has promoted public participation in various events, such as the recruitment of a national online experience group and a contest to discover advertisement contents that meet the needs of the public. 

3. Main achievements and expected future effects

Much attention has been paid to Subsidy 24 by the general public, as well as the efforts of the government. There have been many cases in which individuals have voluntarily produced and employed advertisement materials through YouTube videos, Naver blog posts. Up until now, eligible beneficiaries have tried to find welfare information by themselves. Now, however, Subsidy 24 has changed the administrative system by directly providing information on citizens’ rights regarding assistance and benefits. 

In 2022, the Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to provide the entire nation with a welfare membership system, i.e. a customized service that preemptively informs citizens about the welfare services they are eligible to receive by analyzing their individual circumstances. This will eliminate the inconvenience of having to search for and check benefit information one by one, while the economic benefits resulting from the reduction of time and costs spent on visiting institutions or issuing the required documents are estimated to reach KRW 10.9 billion over the next 6 years through Subsidy 24. With the reduction in the working hours of civil servants at community service centers, whose main task is to consult and check applicants’ eligibility, it is expected that work efficiency will be improved to the value of around KRW 34 billion over six years, by preventing omissions on applications and providing beneficial opportunities in institutions. Subsidy 24 has provided an opportunity to shift administrative services from the point of view of the policy consumers, and this shift is expected to raise the public’s satisfaction with and trust in government policies.


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