Few South Koreans are having babies. The response of a mayor? More babysitters.

South Korea has had the lowest total fertility rate in the world for years. And this week, the mayor of Seoul offered a solution: more babysitters.

in a short facebook postOh Se-hoon, the mayor, said alleviating the country’s high cost and shortage of babysitters would encourage more South Koreans to have children.

“This should be good news for parents who have been reluctant to hire nannies due to financial burdens or shortages in their supply,” Oh said Tuesday in his post.

Immigration law in South Korea allows foreign residents on long-term visas to work as nannies, according to the Korean Immigration Service. But migrant workers on temporary work visas need special permission to do so.

Mr. Oh did not detail how exactly visa rules would be changed to increase the number of nannies working in South Korea, though he pointed to other countries where low-cost domestic workers are common as possible models.

“When Hong Kong and Singapore introduced this system in the 1970s, the proportion of women in the workforce showed a marked increase,” he said. “It did not reverse the long-term decline in fertility rates, but the downward trend has slowed compared to South Korea.”

Mr. Oh is not the first official to have tried to address South Korea’s demographic crisis by alleviating the rising costs of nannies. A state childcare program of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has trained and managed babysitters at a low price for parents for more than 10 years.

But the interventions have not been enough, experts say. Lee Jeong-won, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Early Childhood Care and Education, said the amount she paid her nanny as a mother of twins had doubled in the past 12 years. “The cost has gone up a lot,” she said. On average, South Koreans spend about $2,000 a month on a babysitter, she added.

Research by the institute has shown an increasing number of South Korean parents hiring foreign nannies over the years due to their lower cost and greater availability. But Covid restrictions have reduced the number of nannies coming from other countries, especially China, making the mayor’s proposal more urgent, Lee said.

Some experts said the proposal was premature. Lee Sang-lim, a demographer with the Korea Institute of Health and Social Affairs, said he hadn’t seen anything in the plan about labor protections for foreign workers, such as salary requirements, training and vetting procedures.

But Ms. Lee, the child care policy expert, said she was cautiously optimistic the mayor’s plan would help working women. “More and more women want to work and succeed in their careers,” she said. “But the burden of parenthood still falls on them among many couples.”

To ease the costs of child-rearing, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol has promised to increase government allowances for new parents. Under Yoon’s direction, a budget proposal released last month said the country would provide each family with a newborn child a monthly allowance of $694 starting in 2024, triple it from the current $208.

The mayor said he had proposed his idea at a national cabinet meeting earlier this week.

The financial burden is just one of several reasons South Koreans are reluctant to have children, experts say. Housing and education costs, a shortage of jobs, and general anxiety about the future are other contributing factors.

“People aren’t just worried about the costs of having kids when they’re babies,” Ms. Lee said. “In order to want to have children, they have to believe that they can live happily even when they grow up.”