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Health Minister: “Low Birth Rate Problem Is a Disastrous Situation”

Health Minister: “Low Birth Rate Problem Is a Disastrous Situation”

Posted June. 28, 2005 06:03,   


When the time that people now in their 20s reach the age of 65 comes, those famous young celebrities now in their best days, such as actress Jeon Ji-hyeon and Andy of the boy band Shinwha, will be over seventy years of age. And, when the time comes, South Korea’s index for population competitiveness is expected to plunge from the current number one to the last among the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Dong-A Ilbo has recently requested the LG Economic Research Institute to develop an index for population competitiveness in order to find out how strongly the new emerging social problem, the low birth rate, will affect national power in the future. The index includes five categories, including population size, average life span, the ratio of population that needs support, the productive ages (ages between 16 and 64), and the elderly ratio (those over 65 years old). The institute calculated indexes of 30 OECD member nations and compared them.

The study result showed that South Korea’s index for population competitiveness is 60.7, the highest among the 30 nations. This is because South Korea has relatively large percentage of people of productive age, and a low percentage of aged people and those who needs support compared to advanced nations where low birth rate began earlier than that of South Korea.

As of 2003, Korea’s total fertility rate (the average number of children a woman has) was 1.19. If the current low birth rate continues, the index for population competitiveness of Korea will drop to 56.5, fourth in the list, in 2025. Also in 2050, the figure will be as low as 43.1, 27th on the list of 30 OECD member nations.

“In the early stage of the low birth rate, the number of the young population decreases, lowering the ratio of the population that needs support. However, such a phenomenon is only temporary, and in the end, the current low birth rate will bring serious consequences to the overall society after two decades,” said researcher Lee Ji-pyeong of the LG Economic Research Institute.

The perspective for the near future is not that bright, either. In order to maintain the current population scale, 870,000 babies should have been born last year, but only 493,000 were born. “The low birth rate problem is a disastrous situation that affects the nation’s framework,” said Health and Welfare Minister Kim Kun-tae at a policy debate held under the sponsorship of Korea Women`s Associations United(KWAU).

Hee-Kyung Kim susanna@donga.com