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Friday, April 19, 2024

Fertility rate of South Korea continues free fall in 2023 at 0.72: Data

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A newborn nursery at a public postpartum care center in Seoul on Dec. 26, 2023. [YONHAP]
A newborn nursery at a public postpartum care center in Seoul on Dec. 26, 2023. [YONHAP]

Korea’s ever-plummeting fertility rate continued its free fall in 2023 to reach another all-time low of 0.72 children per woman, down by 0.06 from a year before, according to Statistics Korea’s latest data released Wednesday.

The quarterly figure for the October-December period, in particular, dropped to a fresh low of 0.65, falling past the 0.7 mark for the first time.

The quarterly fertility rate steadily declined through 2023, from 0.82 in the first quarter to 0.71 in the second and third.
The number of newborns also shrank to its lowest ever at 229,970, dipping below the 230,000 threshold for the first time. It marks a 7.7 percent decline from a year prior, signifying a considerable acceleration compared to an on-year decline of 4.3 percent in 2021 and 4.4 percent in 2022.

As a result, despite the number of deaths declining by 5.4 percent to 352,721, Korea’s population shrank by 122,750 last year. The population logged a net decrease in every region except for Sejong, which saw a 1.9 percent increase. Seoul lost 2.3 percent of its population.

The country’s total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman is expected to give birth to — has been plummeting with no sign of rebounding ever since 2016, falling below the 1.0 mark in 2018.

The decline has become steeper as well compared to the previous year.

After an on-year drop of 0.08 from 2019’s 0.92 to 2020’s 0.84, the slide came in at 0.03 in 2021 and 2022 before accelerating to 0.06 last year.

At the current pace, the annual rate is likely to continue to fall by 0.6 in 2024.

The statistics agency cited the persisting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and a consequent drop in the number of marriages for the particularly steep decrease last year.

The number of marriages registered in 2023 increased by 1 percent to 193,673, a rebound from declines of 0.4 percent in 2022 and 9.8 percent in 2021.

BY SHIN HA-NEE [shin.hanee@joongang.co.kr]