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Total fertility rate in Korea falls below 1, lower than any other nation

Aug 29,2019
Despite countless government programs to encourage people to have kids, Korea has become the only country in the world that has a total fertility rate below 1.

The fertility rate is exceptionally low in Seoul.

According to Statistics Korea on Wednesday, the country’s total fertility rate as of last year was 0.98, a drop from 1.05 in 2017 and the lowest rate since related data has been compiled since 1970.

The total fertility rate is the average number of children who women aged 15 to 49 bear.

In 2017, Korea became the country with the lowest total fertility rate in the world.

Macau has a lower fertility rate than Korea at 0.92, but it is a special administrative region of China, not a country.

By comparison, Taiwan’s fertility rate is 1.06, Hong Kong’s 1.07, Singapore’s 1.14 and Japan’s 1.42. The average fertility rate of OECD member countries is 1.68.

To maintain its current population, Korea’s fertility rate needs to be 2.1 or above.

While all regions in the country have seen drops in their fertility rates, Seoul was the lowest at 0.76, which was a drop from last year’s 0.84. The second lowest was Busan, which fell from 0.98 in 2017 to 0.9. Other regions’ fertility rates were above 1, with Sejong having the highest at 1.57.

The low fertility rate indicates that Korean women are less inclined to marry or have children, especially working women living in cities.

According to the statistics agency, the average age for a woman giving birth last year was 32.8 years old, compared to 32.6 in 2017. On average, women gave birth to their first child at the age of 31.9, their second at 33.6 and third at 35.1. All of those ages are older than in previous years.

The average time it took for a married couple to have their first child also has been pushed back, with Seoul couples taking the longest time.

On average, couples had their first child 2.16 years after getting married compared to 1.97 years in 2017. In Seoul, married couple gave birth after 2.33 years of marriage, the longest wait in the country. South Jeolla had the shortest wait of 1.87 years.

The number of newborns born in Korea last year fell to a record low of 326,800, an 8.7 percent drop from 2017’s 357,800. This was the third-sharpest yearly drop in newborns since 1970. The biggest drop in newborns was in 2017, when the number fell 11.9 percent compared to the previous year. The second-sharpest drop was in 2013 at 9.9 percent.

Women between the ages of 30 and 34 had the highest rate of birth, at 97.7 births per 1,000 women.

Women in their 40s were the only age group that saw an increase in their birth rate compared to the previous year.

Women between the ages of 20 and 24 saw the sharpest drop in rate of births: a 14.6 percent decrease from 9.6 per 1,000 women in 2017 to 8.2. This was followed by women between the ages of 25 and 29, who saw a 14.4 percent drop to 41 from 47.9 a year ago. Even women aged between 30 and 34, who had the highest birth rate, experienced a decline of 6.4 percent year-on-year. Women in their late 30s saw a drop of 2.3 percent to 46.1 from 47.2.

Women between the ages of 40 and 44 saw a 6.7 percent increase compared to the previous year while those in their late 40s remained the same.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]