South Korea is facing a severe demographic crisis as the country continues to see birth rates fall even as the local government is investing billions of dollars in social schemes to convince families to have more children. South Korea, which is struggling with the world’s lowest fertility rate, saw its birth rates tumbling to a new record low in 2023, as per the latest government data.

The average number of babies a South Korean woman has during her lifetime fell to 0.72, from 0.78 in 2022, down nearly 8%, according to South Korea's national statistics office.

Comparatively, the fertility rate for India in 2024 is 2.122 births per woman, indicating a 0.79% decline from 2023.

The total fertility rate in South Korea plunged in the fourth quarter last year amid growing concerns over chronic low births, population decline and ageing society. The nation's total fertility rate, the number of children that would be born to a woman in her lifetime, fell to an all-time low of 0.65 in the fourth quarter of last year and 0.72 for all of 2023, down from 0.78 in 2022, as reported in data released on Wednesday by South Korea's national statistics office. This means that on average 100 women would give birth to 65 children in South Korea.

Additionally, the total number of births witnessed a 7.7% decline, reaching 230,000, marking a new low for comparable data in a country with a population of around 50 million people, as compared to the previous year. The crude birth rate, indicating the annual number of live births per one-thousand population, decreased from 4.9 in 2022 to 4.5.

Why birth rate is down in South Korea? 

One of the contributing factors to the decrease in the birth rate is South Korean women choosing not to have children. They point to the high cost of living and the potential harm to career opportunities as reasons for their decision.

The trend of decline persisted for the fourth consecutive year in 2023, establishing South Korea as the sole member of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) with a birth rate below 1%. In contrast, the number of deaths in the same year decreased by 5.4% to 352,700, resulting in a natural population contraction of 122,800.

The Statistics Korea's report revealed that the total fertility rate, which initially fell below one to 0.92 in 2019, has continued to decline at an accelerated pace. The statistical agency attributes this decline to a gradual reduction in the number of marriages, a trend that began with the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020.

South Korea's demographic challenges are not unique in the region, as Japan and China are also grappling with record-low fertility rates and rapidly ageing populations. Japan reported a fertility rate of 1.26 in 2022, while China recorded 1.09, both reaching historic lows.

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