Birth Rate Drops to a New Low in South Korea

Michael Song, Dec. 13, 2016, 8:35 a.m.


Only some 413,000 babies were born this year, the fewest since records began in 1925. The last nadir was in 2005, when 435,031 children were born. This year's figure marks a decline of 60 percent from 1971, the peak of the baby boom when 1.02 million children were born.

Statistics Korea on Monday said this year's tentative estimate is down 5.8 percent or 25,000 from last year. The total fertility rate, which estimates the number of babies born to a woman aged between 15 and 49 during her life time, is also expected to drop to 1.18 from 1.24.

"The statistics from January to September reflect concrete data and the rest is estimates based on pregnancies," said Lee Ji-hyun of Statistics Korea. The drastic drop was attributed mainly to the declining birthrate among women between 30 and 34, who account for about a half of all births. The number of marriages in that group has plummeted and many only have one child.

Statistics Korea estimates that births will drop to just 409,000 in 2020 if the trend continues. The decline is accelerating as more and more people decide not to get married at all. "Society will grow older as the birthrate continues to decline and the economically active population will plummet," said Kim Tae-hun, a professor emeritus at the Korea National University of Education. "Current policies just aren’t enough to overcome the low birthrate."

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