Number of newborns plummets as fertility rate falls to 1.05
The fertility rate, which indicates the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime, recorded 1.05 in 2017, the lowest since records began in 1970, according to Statistics Korea on Wednesday.
The steep drop is attributed to multiple factors, including more people tying the knot later and the increasing number of married couples choosing not to have babies.
The 2017 rate represents a steep drop from the previous year at 1.17. Over the past ten years, the fertility rate has been stuck in the 1.1 to 1.3 range, but has never dipped below 1.1 until last year.
The declining trend raised the specter of Korea’s fertility rate dropping below one in the coming years if the rate does not turn around.
In 2016, Korea had the lowest total fertility rate among OECD member countries as 1.17 - far below the OECD average at 1.68.
The number of newborn babies in 2017 also hit an all-time low at 357,800, down 11.9 percent from the previous year.
In the early 2000s, the country fared better because the number stayed above 600,000 in 2000 and recorded 560,000 the following year.
In 2007, as Korea reeled from the global recession, the number plummeted to 496,800 and has kept falling ever since.
The financial meltdown could be one factor that discouraged women from having more babies, but data from Statistics Korea points to several structural changes in demographics.
The fertility rate of those in their early 30s significantly fell in 2017, one of the consequences of late marriages.
Koreans’ average marriage age rises every year for men and women due primarily to the rising number of young people with a more flexible approach toward marriage and having children, affected by the burden of costs for childrearing.
Even if people are married, less people consider it mandatory to have a baby than in previous generations.
Statistics Korea said that the proportion of married women delivering a baby within two years of marriage fell to 65.8 percent, down 2.3 percent compared to 2016.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [email@example.com]
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