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Korea’s total fertility rate falls below 1

Feb 28,2019
The total fertility rate in Korea has fallen to a record low, and the country is now the only OECD member where the rate is below 1.

According to Statistics Korea on Wednesday, the total fertility rate last year dropped to 0.98 in 2018, down from 1.05 a year earlier, the previous record low.

The total fertility rate is the number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime. A rate of 2.1 - the replacement rate - is needed to sustain a population. According to World Bank statistics, Korea has not been above 2.1 since 1982.

Despite the government spending 126 trillion won ($112.6 billion) over the past 12 years to encourage people to have children, many women have no plans to become pregnant in the face of dramatic social and economic changes.

The average fertility rate of the 35 member countries of the OECD is 1.68.

“The group that has the highest rate of births is women in their early 30s,” said Kim Jin, head of the Vital Statistics division at Statistics Korea. “But the population in this age group has declined 5 percent when compared with 2017.“

“Additionally, until last year the number of people getting married has fallen for seven consecutive years.”

The statistics agency official said that, at the current fertility rate, the decline in population will accelerate.

Korea’s fertility rate has been falling at an alarming pace. After peaking at 4.54 in 1971, it dropped to 1.53 in 1987. Although, in the early 1990s, it rose slightly when the economy was thriving, it has since then been holding barely above 1.

Korea is now facing a population crisis, with the number of newborns falling and the number of people dying on the increase.

Last year, 326,900 babies were born, an 8.6 percent drop - or 30,900 fewer - than in the previous year. The number of deaths rose 4.7 percent - or 13,400 - to a total of 298,900.

The net increase of population was at 28,000, an all-time low. This figure plummeted 61.3 percent from 2017, or 44,000 people fewer.

The birth rate of women in their 20s and 30s has fallen. Last year was the first in which women in their late 20s had a lower birthrate than woman in their late 30s.

The birthrate for women aged between 25 and 29 fell from 47.9 per 1,000 women in 2017 to 41 in 2018, while for women aged between 35 and 39, the rate declined from 47.2 per 1,000 women in 2017 to 46.1. For women in their early 40s, the rate increased by 7 percent while for those aged from 45 to 49 it remained unchanged.

The average age for having children has gone up 0.2 years compared to the previous year to 32.8. The average age for having one’s first child was 31.9 years old in 2018.

The dramatic shifts are expected to have a major impact on economic and social issues.

The Bank of Korea estimates that due to the changing demographics and the shrinking of the population capable of participating in the economy, Korea’s potential growth - which averaged 3.9 percent between 2000 and 2015- will drop to 1.9 percent between 2016 and 2025 and fall further to 0.4 percent between 2026 and 2035.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]


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