Marriage rate at new low, data show

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Marriage rate at new low, data show

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Fewer Koreans are marrying, new data shows.

Last year, only six in 1,000 Koreans wed, Statistics Korea said on Thursday, adding that many young people in their 20s and 30s are either postponing marriage due to economic changes or because they generally believe the institution is no longer necessary.

This is a record low, following 2009 when only 6.2 people in 1,000 tied the knot. And it’s significantly lower than the 9.2 people in 1970, when researchers first started collecting data.

Marriage numbers peaked in 1980, when the data showed 10.6 people in 1,000 wed.

When it comes to the sheer number of marriages, 305,507 couples married last year, which is also the lowest level since 2004, when 308,598 couples tied the knot.

Those marrying for the first time are also doing so later, the statistics agency said.

The average age for grooms was about 32.4 last year, higher than 27.8 in 1990.

Brides, on average, were 29.8 years old last year, compared to the average age of 24.8 in 1990.

“The trend of delaying marriage has become a new norm for both men and women,” said Yoon Yeon-ok, the director of the Population Statistics Department at Statistics Korea. “More men are marrying now in their early 30s, in a trend that has completely settled, while the [average age] for women is also shifting from the late 20s to the early 30s.”

The steady rise in the number of unmarried people is also another factor dragging down the overall marriage rate. Due to changing perceptions, many Koreans no longer believe marriage is necessary.

In a count of single people age 50 and older, 5.8 percent of Korean men had never married as of 2010, while 2.8 percent of women had never wed. That proportion has continuously risen over the past two decades, from 0.7 percent in 1990 and 1.9 percent in 2000 for men, and from 0.5 percent in 1990 and 1.4 percent in 2000 for women.

The single population is still smaller than in other advanced economies like Japan (20.2 percent for men and 10.7 percent for women) and France (22.4 percent for men and 17.6 percent for women).

However, Korea’s number is relatively high considering the idea of cohabiting unmarried couples with or without children is more culturally and legally accepted in those societies.

“The Korean government needs policies that encourage marriage,” Yoon pointed out, adding that number of young people ages 15 to 24 who believe marriage is mandatory has steadily decreased since 2008.

Another contributing factor in the reduction in the married population is the decline in international marriages, particularly between Korean men and foreign women.

“The government has strengthened regulations on international marriage brokers as well as the criteria for issuing marriage visas to immigrants, so since 2010, the number of marriages between Korean men and foreign women has decreased at a sharp pace,” Yoon said.


BY KIM JI-YOON [jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]

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