Births in third quarter decline to new record
On a monthly basis, births have hit their 42nd consecutive low.
According to Statistics Korea on Wednesday, in the third quarter, 73,793 newborns were delivered, which is an 8.3 percent drop, or 6,687 fewer, than the same period a year earlier. It is the smallest number of births since the data were first compiled in 1981.
The previous record low was hit in the fourth quarter of last year, when 74,542 newborns were delivered.
In September, the number of newborns totaled 24,123, which is a 7.5 percent drop compared to a year ago, or 1,943 fewer.
The total fertility rate of women aged between 15 and 49 has further dropped, to a record 0.88 from the previous record in the second quarter of 0.98.
With the number of newborns continuing to decline, it is becoming increasingly clear that by the end of this year the total number of newborns is unlikely to reach 300,000, which could be a first.
As of the end of September, the number of newborns totalled 232,317, which is a 7.9 percent drop from the same period a year ago, when there were 252,280 babies.
Last year, 326,900 births were recorded.
If the total number fails to reach 300,000 by the end of this year, it would indicate a rapid decline considering that the number of newborns fell below 400,000 just two years ago.
It took the country 15 years to fall from 500,000 to 400,000.
“The number of newborns in the fourth quarter usually shrinks [compared to the previous quarters],” said Kim Jin, director of population census at Statistics Korea.
The shrinking population has become a major issue in recent years as it could threaten long-term economic growth.
The statistics agency estimates the working-age population will likely fall to 17 million, about half the 37.5 million last year, by 2060.
During the National Assembly’s annual audit last month, statistics agency commissioner Kang Shin-wook cited young people avoiding marriage and pregnancy even if they do get married.
The number of people that were married in September increased, but in the first nine months, the total actually dipped 0.9 percent compared to the previous year.
Married couples avoiding having children was particularly evident in major cities, where women today are more actively working.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]