Seoul (AFP) – South Korea’s birth rate hit a new low Wednesday as authorities announced barely 300,000 babies were born last year in the nation of 51 million people.
The country has one of the world’s longest life expectancies and one of its lowest birthrates, a combination that presents a looming demographic disaster.
A total of 303,100 babies were born in 2019, Statistics Korea said, down 7.3 percent from the previous year.
The country’s fertility rate — the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime — dropped to 0.92, the second consecutive year it was under one, and far below the 2.1 needed to keep a population stable.
South Korean women have increasingly rejected motherhood in the face of heavy childcare burdens and associated career setbacks in a country where a thick glass ceiling still endures, along with traditional social values.
The government has spent more than 180 trillion won ($148 billion) since 2006 to boost birth rates but the population is projected to fall to 39 million in 2067, when the median age will be 62.