In last 8 years, Korean birth numbers have fallen by half

Posted on : 2024-01-29 17:21 KST Modified on : 2024-01-29 17:22 KST
If the rate of the decline persists, Korea could see annual birth numbers of under 200,000
(Getty Images Bank)
(Getty Images Bank)

The number of South Korean newborns is estimated to have halved in the eight years since 2015, diminishing between 10,000 and 30,000 per year. The country is estimated to have fewer than 230,000 babies born last year. 

According to demographic data released by Statistics Korea on Monday, 213,571 babies were born from January through November of last year, the lowest number of yearly newborns to go on record. The total number for 2023 is therefore expected to be less than 230,000. 

Recent data shows that fewer than 20,000 babies are being born each month in the country. Moreover, seasonal trends show that the number of newborns typically diminishes at the end of the year. The number of newborns in December 2022 was recorded to be 16,896. 

If the number of newborns in 2023 turns out to be less than 230,000, that’s a reduction of around 20,000 compared to 2022 (249,186). Even records tied to official resident identification numbers, which sometimes list a birthday that’s different from one’s actual day of birth, indicate a reduction from 254,628 in 2022 to 235,039 in 2023. Once again, a reduction of around 20,000. 

This indicates eight consecutive years of declining annual births. Births in 2015 (438,420) diminished by 32,177 in 2016 (406,243). Births in 2017 then diminished by 48,472 to 357,771 — the biggest reduction thus far. 

Births in 2018 diminished by 30,949 compared to the previous year. Births in 2019 diminished by 24,146 compared to 2018. 2020 saw a reduction of 30,339, while 2021 saw a reduction of 11,775, and 2022 a reduction of 11,376.

Births have diminished by 10,000 to 30,000 per year, resulting in a 50% reduction over an eight-year period. This is the first time that annual births have gone down for eight consecutive years since the country began collecting pertaining data in 1970. 

The time period of annual births diminishing by half has also shortened. Over 1 million newborns were recorded from 1970 to 1971. This figure did not diminish by half until 2002 (496,911) — over 30 years later. Yet it only took 13 years for the next halving: 249,186 in 2015. The next halving is expected to have occurred in 2023 — a mere eight years later. At this rate, annual births are expected to fall under 200,000 soon.  

By Ahn Tae-ho, staff reporter

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