South Korea: Breaking All Its Previous Records of World’s Lowest Birth Rate

South Korea is becoming the world’s least efficient baby factory, as the country is re-writing the record for the world’s lowest fertility rate in 2019.

The country’s fertility rate (the number of expected babies per woman) fell to an alarming number of 0.88 between July and September, according to a statement by the National Statistics Office released on Wednesday. That’s the lowest quarterly reading, on record, in South Korea and follows the yearly figure of 0.98 for 2018.

Previous Data:

South Korea was already the country with the lowest birth rate among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2017, reports suggested that South Korea had a birth rate of 1.07, which was far below Japan’s 1.43, France’s 1.86, and Israel’s 3.11.

According to the OECD, fertility rate in the country declined steeply from 1970 to 2018. The average OECD fertility rate was 2.0, while South Korea’s fertility rate was 1.8 in 1984. Its fertility rate decreased further by 1.7 from 1979 to 2015. In 2018, the total fertility rate in the country declined to 0.98, which indicates the number of children that a woman gives birth to during their lifetime.

Situation Right Now:

A drop of 7.9% was recorded in the number of babies born this year till September, as compared to the same period last year. Escalating annual declines of 8.7% and 11.9% in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

Seoul, being the nation’s capital, had the lowest number of 0.69, while Sejong, a city home to a complex of government offices, reported the highest rate at 1.34.

Why Did This Happen?

Selective abortion of female fetuses was one of the main reasons that had an important impact on the low birth rate in the twentieth century. There is a strong gender preference for sons because the conception of a daughter cannot accede to the family name and thus are averted from preserving and continuing the family line. These preferences resulted in a high sex ratio, which means that the number of men is higher than women. This, in turn, is anticipated to decrease the birth rate in the future.

The high cost of education and social pressure make married couples reluctant to have many children. Parents prefer quality than quantity so that they want no more than one or two children to avoid that extra financial burden. Women are striving to lead a better quality of life by becoming a crucial part of the country’s labor force; however, this too has resulted in more women postponing their marriages.

South Korea’s Approach to Tackling the Situation:

Being one of the fastest aging countries in the world, South Korea is spending billions of dollars on a year on incentives such as subsidized childcare leave, free nurseries, government-trained baby sitters, and cash stipends. However, the government is unable to combat the falling birthrate because of rising home prices and shrinking job stability.

The country is becoming a big “old age home”, as the number of elderly people exceeded that of the young in 2016. South Korea needs to adopt certain measures to get rid of this tag.

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