The birth rate in a country, which indicates the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime, It fell to 0.81 in 2021, down 0.03% from the previous year, according to Korean government statistics.
To maintain a stable population, countries need a birth rate of 2.1 – anything higher indicates population growth.
And as the birth rate falls, South Korean women are also having babies at a later age. According to the statistics agency, the average age of women who gave birth in 2021 was 33.4, up 0.2 years from the previous year.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s population is also aging, pointing to a demographic decline that experts fear will leave the country with too few working-age people to support a growing older population, both through taxes and by filling jobs in areas such as healthcare and home care.
This proportion of older Koreans is growing rapidly – according to census data, it increased by more than 5% between 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, the working-age population — people aged 15 to 64 — declined by 0.9% between 2020 and 2021.
South Korea and Japan share similar reasons for declining birth rates, including a demanding work culture, stagnating wages, rising living costs, and soaring house prices.
Many South Korean women say they simply don’t have the time, money or emotional capacity to date as they put their careers first in a highly competitive job market where they often face a patriarchal culture and gender inequality.
In recent years, the South Korean government has taken several measures to combat falling birth rates, including allowing both parents to take parental leave at the same time and extending paid parental leave.
Social campaigns are encouraging men to take on a more active role in childcare and housework, and in some parts of the country authorities are handing out “new baby vouchers” to encourage parents to have more children.