Marriage rate at lowest since 1970

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Marriage rate at lowest since 1970

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The national marriage rate last year was the lowest since data was first compiled in 1970, due to the country’s shrinking population and young people feeling financially squeezed amid expanding housing costs and a narrow job market. A shift in marriage philosophy among young people also contributed to the shrinking number of Koreans tying the knot.

Only 5.5 couples out of 1,000 people married last year, the government said Wednesday. That’s a drop from 5.9 in 2015. That figure has been steadily dropping since peaking at 10.6 per 1,000 people in 1980.

Last year 281,600 couples tied the knot, a 7 percent drop from the previous year. It was the first time the number of married couples dropped below 300,000 since 1976, when 285,900 couples got hitched. Currently, the smallest number of couples married was 259,100 in 1974.

“The population, economic and social factors all contributed in the shrinking of couples that are getting married,” said Lee Ji-yeon, director of Statistics Korea. “Not only has the number of people in the age group eligible for marriage declined but also economic indicators related to marriage such as the [high] unemployment rate, rising jeonse and monthly rent prices has been worsening.”

Those in their late 20s and early 30s, usually the largest group to marry, have fallen by more than 170,000 over the previous year.

While landing jobs has becoming harder for those just graduating from college, many have shunned marriage.


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Last year, the number of women ages 20 to 24 that married dropped 10.9 percent year-on-year. Those between 25 and 29 fell 88 percent while those between 30 and 34 dropped 3.4 percent. The rate for men between 20 and 24 plummeted 12 percent while the rate for those 25 to 29 dropped 10.7 percent. The rate for those between 30 and 34 fell 4.9 percent.

The average age of grooms today is 32.8 years and 30.1 years old for women. This is a significant shift from 28.4 for men in 1996. A decade ago, the average age for brides was 25.5 in 1996.

The Statistics Korea director said the rise of marriage as an option seems to have affected overall rates.

“There have been significant changes on the perception of marriage,” Lee said. “Prior to 2000 seven out of 10 single men considered marriage a must but since 2014 that figure has been shrinking sharply to five in 2014 and four in 2015.”


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Koreans marrying foreigners has also declined, shrinking 3.2 percent to 26,000 marriages.

While Korean women marrying foreign men has inched up 1 percent compared to the previous year to 14,800, the rate of Korean men marrying foreign women has dropped 12.6 percent year-on-year to 58,000 couples.

Korean men marrying foreign women have been on a downturn since the government in 2011 tightened regulations on matchmaking companies and visa applications after a growth in domestic violence and fraud.

Mixed-nationality couples today account for 7.3 percent of all marriages, a 0.3 percentage point increase over a year earlier. Foreign women married to Korean men accounted for 72 percent of the share.


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




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