S. Korea’s fertility rate drops to historic low during 2nd quarter of 2020

Posted on : 2020-08-27 16:47 KST Modified on : 2020-08-27 16:47 KST
Population declines continues for 8th straight month as deaths outnumber births
The newborn nursery at a hospital in Seoul’s Seongbuk District. (Kim Myoung-jin, staff photographer)
The newborn nursery at a hospital in Seoul’s Seongbuk District. (Kim Myoung-jin, staff photographer)

South Korea’s total fertility rate dropped to a historic low of 0.84 during the second quarter of 2020. Its natural population decline also continued for an eighth straight month with deaths outnumbering births.

According to a report on June population trends released on Aug. 26 by Statistics Korea, a total of 22,193 children were born in the month of June, down by 7.5% (1,799 births) from the same month in 2019. The number of children born between January and June 2020 stood at 142,663, down by 9.9% (15,762 births) from the same period last year. The number of births by month has hit record lows on a year-to-year basis for 51 straight months since April 2016.

For the second quarter of 2020, the total fertility rate (representing the average predicted lifetime number of children born per woman of childbearing age) dropped to 0.84. The rate was down by 0.06 from the first quarter (0.9) and by 0.08 for the same quarter in 2019. It was the lowest for any quarter since quarterly statistics were first tallied in 2009.

“Not only has the population of women in their early 30s been declining, but this phenomenon is also the result of an even larger drop over the past four years in the number of marriages, which has already been falling for eight consecutive years since 2012,” explained Kim Su-yeong, chief of Statistics Korea’s vital statistics division.

At 51,001, the number of marriages during the second quarter was down by 16.4% (11,200) from the same period last year. One factor in this was a rise in the number of couples postponing weddings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The sharp decline in marriages, which are a leading indicator for births, is expected to also impact the decline in births next year.

The number of deaths in June was calculated at 23,651, an increase of 2.7% (620 deaths) from the same month in 2019. A process of natural population decline, where deaths outnumber births, has been occurring for eight straight months since November 2019. Indeed, 2020 is very likely to record an annual natural population decline for the first time ever.

According to statistics of 2019 births also released by Statistics Korea the same day, the number of children born last year was estimated at 302,700, down by 7.4% (24,100 children) from the previous year. Given the rate of decline in births, a total below 300,000 for this year is seen as a virtual certainty. In 2018, the total fertility rate fell to 0.98, making South Korea the lowest-ranking member of the OECD by total fertility rate and the only one with a rate lower than 1. Last year, the rate slid even further to 0.92.

By Lee Kyung-mi, staff reporter

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