Korea 2050: old, alone and in demographic death spiral
In this semi-dystopian forecast, a depopulating and lonely land is envisioned.
The total number of households will increase, according to the Tuesday report, with 23 million in 2050 from 20.7 million in 2020, while the number of people will decline from 51.8 million to 47.4 million.
Average household size will be 1.91 in 2050. Nearly 40 percent of the households will only have one person, while 23.3 percent will be just couples. Only 17.1 percent will be households with children.
That's more than six in 10 households with no children, up from 48 percent in 2020 — 31.8 percent living alone and 16.8 percent couples with no children.
For families with children, the trend is toward fewer children.
In 2050, 16.6 percent of households will have three members, down from 20.3 percent in 2020, and 6.2 percent will have four, from the current 15.8 percent.
The single-household category will be dominated by the aged, with 43 percent of people in this group being 70 or above.
Korea's demographic cliff has become a major concern, as the numbers indicate a shrinking population and one that is older and less productive.
The country's fertility rate in 2021 was 0.81, the lowest in the world, and government forecasts show that number falling to 0.70 in 2024.
Natural population decline, which factors out immigration, has been recorded for 30 consecutive months.
Since 2006, the government has spent 380 trillion won ($296 billion) to encourage births, 46 trillion won last year alone.
On Friday, the Yoon Suk-yeol government held its first task force meeting to address the population decline. Incentives for marriages and births were discussed, as well as support for raising children and for young people.
A total of 18 government ministries and departments participated, while academics, including Lee Chul-hee, Seoul National University economics professor, also attended.
"By 2070, our population will be lower than in the 1970s," said Vice Finance Minister Bang Ki-sun during the meeting. "Our economic growth will be limited, with the fall in the productive population, and there will be places completely depopulated.
"With the population aging at the fastest rate in the world, our sustainability in pensions, social insurance and welfare will be weakened."
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]