Child births in S.Korea lowest since 1981

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The number of babies born in South Korea plunged in October, the lowest tally since 1981, highlighting the country’s bleak demographic situation with the chronically low birth rate, data showed on Wednesday.

A total of 20,736 babies were born in the country in October, down 5.2 per cent from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.

The October figure was also down from 21,920 newborns recorded in September.

In the first 10 months of 2021, 224,216 babies were born in the country, down 3.6 per cent from the previous year.

South Korea is grappling with a chronic decline in childbirths as many young people delay and give up on getting married or having babies amid a prolonged economic slowdown and high housing prices.

South Korea’s total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime — hit a record low of 0.84 last year. It marked the third straight year that the rate was below 1 per cent.

The number of deaths, meanwhile, gained for the eighth consecutive month in October amid rapid population aging.

The number of deaths came to 27,783 in the month, up 4.9 per cent from a year earlier.

In the January-October period, the number of deaths rose 2 per cent on-year to 257,466.

Accordingly, the country’s population decreased by 7,046 in October, marking the 24th straight month of decline. In the first 10 months of the year, the country reported a natural population fall of 33,250.

South Korea posted the first natural decline in population in 2020 as the number of deaths outpaced that of newborns.

Policymakers have warned the country may face an “age quake” in 2030-40, an earthquake-like demographic shock from a fall in population and aging of the population, if it does not address demographic challenges in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, the number of people getting married shrank 7.7 per cent on-year to 15,203 in October. It was also the lowest figure for any October.

On top of the downtrend of marriages, more people postponed their weddings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the statistics office.

The country’s divorces tumbled 17.6 per cent on-year to 7,703 in October, the lowest for any October, the data also showed.

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