S. Korea records world’s lowest fertility rate at mere 0.78

Posted on : 2023-02-23 17:06 KST Modified on : 2023-02-23 17:06 KST
Korea registered 191,700 marriages last year, the lowest tally on record

South Korea posted a total fertility rate of 0.78 for 2022 as the birth rate hit a new low. The number of newborns in the country also dropped below 250,000 for the first time.

Korea’s tally of deaths in 2022 was more than 17% higher than the previous year, likely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to provisional birth and death figures for 2022 released by the government agency Statistics Korea on Wednesday, 249,000 babies were born in Korea last year, down 11,500 from the previous year.

When the Korean government began tracking the yearly number of births in the 1970s, that figure was above 1 million, but it fell below 600,000 in 2001 and below 500,000 in 2002.

While the yearly birth tally stayed in that range for some time, the decline has been accelerating lately, with new births dropping below 400,000 in 2017 and staying below 300,000 since 2020.

Korea reported a total fertility rate of 0.78, down 0.03 from the year before. The total fertility rate is defined as the average number of children a woman has over the course of her life.

Last year’s fertility rate represented another record low in the history of tabulation. It’s also less than half of the average across OECD member states (1.59 as of 2020). Korea is the only member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development with a total fertility rate below 1.

According to “World Population Prospects 2022,” a report that was published last year by the UN Population Fund and the Korea Population, Health and Welfare Association, Korea’s total fertility rate has ranked 198th of 198 countries for the last three years.

When the birth rate (the number of children born per 1,000 women) is broken down by age group, the biggest decrease was seen in women in their late 20s. The birth rate in that group was 24, representing a decrease of 3.5 from the previous year.

Among women in their early 30s, the birth rate was 73.5, down 2.6 from the previous year. Among women in their early 40s, the birth rate was 8, up 0.4 from the previous year and the highest point ever recorded.

Women aged 35 and above made up 35.7% of all mothers, rising 0.7 points from the year before. The average age of childbirth was 33.5 years, up 0.2, the oldest average ever recorded.

The time that elapses between marriage and childbirth is also increasing. The percentage of babies born within two years after marriage was 31.5%, down 0.3 points year over year. As recently as 2012, 4 out of 10 babies were born within two years of marriage, but that percentage has dropped 9 points over the past decade.

The percentage of babies born 2-5 years after marriage was 41%, and the percentage born 5 or more years after marriage was 27.5%, with those metrics increasing 0.1 and 0.2 points, respectively, from the previous year.

Korea registered 191,700 marriages last year, the lowest tally on record. The year-over-year decline of 0.4% was much smaller than 2020 (-10.7%) and 2021 (-9.8%), but that relative rebound was driven by marriages postponed during the pandemic.

Korea reported 372,800 deaths last year, which was up 17.4% from the previous year. The increase is thought to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One reason deaths have gone up is that our society continues to age. But considering that the number of deaths spiked during the surge of COVID-19 cases in March and April of last year, we shouldn’t disregard the impact of COVID-19,” said Lim Young-il, head of the population trends division at Statistics Korea.

By Lee Ji-hye, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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