Fertility rate falls to yet another low in 2019
The fertility rate dropped to yet another low, hitting 0.92 in 2019, down from 0.98 in 2018.
It is the second year ever in which the rate was below 1, the level at which the average woman between the age of 15 and 49 will have only one child.
Statistics Korea on Wednesday reported the number, which has been compiled every year since 1970.
Korea is at the bottom in terms of the fertility rate among the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The average fertility rate of the member states in 2018 was 1.63.
Korea is far below the OECD country next on the list, which is Spain, at 1.26. Even Japan is higher than Korea, at 1.42.
By cities and regions, Seoul had the lowest fertility rate, at 0.72, followed by Busan, at 0.83.
Last year, the number of newborns shrunk 7.4 percent year-on-year to 302,700. The average age of giving birth last year was 33, which is two years older than 31 in 2009.
According to another report by Statistics Korea released on Wednesday, natural population decline has been ongoing for eight months. It is likely given the trend that 2020 will be Korea's first year of natural population decline.
In June, newborns — when compared to June last year — shrunk 7.5 percent to 22,193. The number of people who passed away increased 2.7 percent to 23,651. As a result, the difference between births and deaths was 1,458.
Forecasts indicate that the number of newborns this year will fall below 300,000. In the first six months of the year, the number of newborns totaled 142,663, which is a 9.9 percent drop from the 158,425 during the same period last year.
With the population continuing to shrink, government policy is in the spotlight. The budget targeting low fertility has been increasing on average 21.1 percent every year since 2011.
The Moon Jae-in government allocated 26.3 trillion won ($22.2 billion) to combat the low fertility rate in 2018, 32.3 trillion won in 2019 and 37.6 trillion won this year.
Statistics Korea earlier estimated that the productive population aged between 15 and 64 will shrink to half of the current level by 2060.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]