Country sets new fertility low

The figure dropped by another three points in South Korea last year, according to statistics

South Korea broke its own record for the world’s lowest fertility rate last year, the national statistics agency said on Wednesday.

The country’s total fertility rate, which represents the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime, dropped to 0.81 in 2021 – down by three points from 0.84 a year before that, the figures from Statistics Korea revealed.

Only 260,600 children were born in the country of 51.7 million last year, according to the agency, further increasing concerns over its shrinking and aging population.

The fertility rate stood at 4.53 in 1970 when the government in Seoul first started collecting the data. It has been on a steady decline since then, with the fall accelerating in the 2000s amid financial turbulence. The figure went below 1.0 in 2018, as young Koreans were faced with unemployment and rising prices in housing, childcare, and education.

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The number of deaths surpassed the number of newborns in South Korea for the first time on record in 2020.

A country requires a fertility rate of 2.1, which means a woman giving birth to at least two kids, in order to be able to maintain the size of its population without migration. 

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which Seoul is part of, has been predicting a decline in the fertility rate for decades. 

However, South Korea is the only nation among its 38 members that has this marker at below one. In the US, the fertility rate stood at 1.66 in 2021, while in Japan it was 1.37.

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