In the period from January to October this year, South Korea witnessed an unprecedented low in its birth rate, intensifying concerns about the nation's demographic trajectory. According to Statistics Korea, only 177,000 babies were born during the first three quarters, marking the lowest figure since data collection began in 1981.
The nation's total fertility rate, an indicator of the average expected number of children per woman, hit a new record low in 2023, dropping to 0.7 during the first three quarters, a 0.1 decrease from the same period in the previous year. With the persistent decline in birth rates throughout the year, experts predict that this year's total fertility rate may further decrease to 0.6.
This alarming trend follows a historical pattern of dwindling birth rates. From 657,000 births in the first three quarters of 1981, the number sharply declined to around 300,000 in 2002 and further plummeted to approximately 278,000 in 2017. Last year, the figure slipped below 200,000.
South Korea's government had previously anticipated a decline in the birth rate, predicting a total fertility rate of 0.7 by 2024 and envisaging a gradual rebound to 1.0 by 2031 and 1.21 by 2046. However, the current scenario suggests a more imminent and concerning situation than initially projected.
The data released by Statistics Korea has sparked discussions about the potential long-term implications for the country's demographic landscape. With a record-low birth rate and a struggling total fertility rate, policymakers and experts face the challenge of implementing strategies to address this demographic crisis and its far-reaching consequences on South Korea's future.