[EDITORIALS]Time to recognize birth crisisSouth Korea’s birth rate has plummeted to the lowest in the world. Last year, the average number of babies for each woman of childbearing age in Korea was 1.16, the lowest ever in the nation’s history. It is lower than the 2.04 of the United States, 1.29 of Japan and the 2003 figure of 1.18 in the Czech Republic.
Koreans are also delaying marriage, so the average age at which women had their first child went up to 30.1. If Korea maintains these rates, the number of deaths will outgrow the number of births in 17 years, and the absolute population will go down. Korea, then, will become a society moving toward death.
This is not an issue that can be neglected any longer. Before stepping on the threshold of an advanced nation, we are about to become a country full of elderly people.
To maintain a nation’s economic growth, a certain level of population growth is critical. With the rapidly falling birth rate, we have to rebuild the framework of our society, including the pension system.
China, which has a higher birth rate than South Korea, will face an aging society crisis with its current birth rate of 1.6 before it becomes a rich country, the U.S. Population Reference Bureau has warned. We must listen carefully to that advice.
We should also pay attention to Japan’s case, where the absolute population began falling this year. Facing this unprecedented crisis, Japan’s legislature passed a resolution last year that affirmed it was a Japanese citizen’s duty to have a family and rear children.
The situation has become too urgent to leave marriage and birth to human rights and individual values. Japan has appeared to sense the impending crisis, that the nation may one day become extinct.
South Korea should move quickly to draw up fundamental measures to pull up the birth rate. The financial burden of giving birth and raising a child must be lowered to encourage women to have babies.
To raise the birth rate, bold incentives must be given. Families with many children should be given preference in college admissions, apartment purchase and the military draft. The situation is so desperate that these ideas cannot be dismissed as absurd.
A country with no babies crying is a society without hope. There will be no future. And Korea is heading toward such a future without knowing what to do.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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