Grim demographics: Childbirths in South Korea at another low in February

Demographics
Photo credit: Yonhap

The number of babies born in South Korea fell below the 20,000 level for the first time for any February this year, data showed Wednesday, amid deepening woes about the country's demographics amid rapid aging and the ultra-low birthrate, Yonhap reports.

A total of 19,362 babies were born in February 2024, sliding 3.3 percent from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.

It marked the lowest figure for any February since the statistics agency began compiling related data in 1981.

In terms of February readings, the number of newborns fell below 30,000 for the first time in 2018 and had stayed around the 20,000 level until last year.

The number of deaths advanced 9.6 percent on-year to 29,977 in February this year, the largest figure for any February.

The population, accordingly, declined by 10,614, the sharpest fall for any February ever. The number of deaths has outpaced that of newborns since November 2019.

"The deaths among those aged 85 and older logged growth in February amid population aging," an agency official said. "The increase was also due to a leap year and the extra day was added at the end of February this year."

The number of couples getting married fell 5 percent on-year to 16,949 in February, following an 11.6 percent increase the previous month.

The decline came as this year's Lunar New Year holiday fell in February.

There is a superstition that couples tying the knot during a leap year will end in divorce, but it seems unlikely to largely affect the number of marriages in February, the official said.

The number of couples getting divorced went up 1.8 percent on-year to 7,354, according to the data.

South Korea is experiencing grim demographic changes, as many young people opt to postpone or give up on getting married or having babies in line with changing social norms and lifestyles amid high home prices, a tough job market and an economic slowdown.

Last year, the number of babies born in the country dropped 7.7 percent on-year to an all-time low of 229,970.

The total fertility rate, which means the average number of expected births from a woman in her lifetime, also hit a record yearly low of 0.72, which came far below the 2.1 births per woman needed to maintain a stable population without immigration.

In the fourth quarter of last year alone, the rate came to 0.65, the lowest ever quarterly figure.

South Korea is expected to be a highly aged country by 2072 as the median age will increase from 44.9 in 2022 to 63.4 in 2072, and the population will tumble to around 36.22 million in 2072 from last year's 51 million.

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