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Number of births hits record low

Feb 23,2017
The number of babies born in the country fell to a record low while the number of people who died reached an all-time high last year, contributing to worries about the shrinking population.

Childbirths fell 7.3 percent year on year from 438,400 in 2015 to 406,300, an all-time low, the government said Wednesday. In the same period, 281,000 Koreans died last year, a 1.8 percent increase from the previous year.

Statistics Korea said fewer people are getting married and having babies as economic conditions remain uncertain and as the number of Koreans at the optimal age to marry falls.

One of the biggest concerns facing the Korean government is the shrinking population of those who could contribute to the nation’s economic growth. The financial burden of establishing a family and purchasing a home has caused young Koreans to postpone marriage and having children.

“Fewer Koreans are getting married and the average age of women when they get married continues to rise,” said Lee Jee-yeon, a director at Statistics Korea. “Major economic indications including the labor market remain weak and a large number of Koreans are postponing marriage or simply don’t get married because of that reason. Housing prices also have risen compared to the past and this is putting a greater financial burden on young Koreans.”

Korea’s total fertility rate, or the average number of babies a woman is expected to have in her lifetime, was 1.17, down 5.6 percent from 1.24 in the previous year. The average age of Korean women who gave birth last year was 32.4, up 0.2 from the previous year. The statistics agency said 26.3 percent of women who gave birth last year were older than 35.

The number of Koreans who died last year rose 1.8 percent year on year to 281,000 as the Korean population ages faster. The number of people who died was at an all-time high since 1983, when the government started compiling the data in its current form.

Choi Sang-mok, a vice minister of strategy and finance said last month that the 80 trillion won ($70.6 billion) spent in the past 10 years to boost the birth rate had a limited impact and that the government will devise better plans to help Koreans get married instead of just focusing on those who already are married.


BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]