Another record low South Korean birth rate

SEOUL, 23 Feb 2023:

The number of babies born in South Korea reached a new all-time low in 2022 as deaths once again exceeded births for the third consecutive year, according to data released yesterday.

A total of 249,000 babies were born last year, down 4.4% on 2021 – the year in which a record low was also recorded, according to Statistics Korea.

The fertility rate – the average number of children a woman has in her lifetime – in South Korea was 0.78 in 2022, marking the fifth consecutive year that figure has been below one, and the lowest level since data collection began in 1970.

The birth rate of Asia’s fourth largest economy has been for a decade the lowest among the 38 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Experts believe the rate should be around 2.1 to keep stable South Korea’s population, which stands at just over 51 million.

The average age at which South Koreans have their first child increased in 2022 to 33.5 years, which is 0.2 years more than the previous year.

For years, many South Korean couples have been delaying the age at which they have children or choosing not to have them, citing factors such as the economic slowdown or the high cost of housing.

In turn, more and more people highlight in surveys the burden of having children in a very patriarchal society where in many cases women are forced to leave their jobs and dedicate themselves entirely to household chores once they give birth.

On the other hand, the number of deaths in 2022 was 372,800, which is 17.4% up on the previous year and represents a record difference (about 123,000) with respect to the number of births.

South Korea, which in the 1980s registered population growth of more than 600,000 inhabitants per year, began to report more deaths than births in 2020.