The birth rate, or the number of newborn babies per 1,000 people, dropped last year to 9.8. It is the first time for the figure to fall below 10.
The combined birth rate, or the number of babies born by one woman during her lifetime, decreased by 0.03 to 1.16 year-on-year.
The average age of childbearing women stood at over 30 for the first time, and married women were found to have a tendency of bearing children later. In short, women tend to marry later and have children later.
According to the 2004 Birth and Death Statistics released by the National Statistical Office, the number of babies born last year declined to 476,052, which is less than that of the year before last by 17,000, recording the lowest since the statistics began to be recorded.
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB), a non-profit statistics research center in the U.S., found that the combined birth rate stood at 2.0 in the U.S., 1.9 in France, 1.7 in England, 1.6 in China, 1.3 in Japan, and 2.7 for the global average.
PRB categorized South Korea into the lowest birth rate countries along with Taiwan, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
The average age of childbearing women last year was 30.1.
Kim Dong-hoi, population analyst at the National Statistical Office, said, The number of newborn babies has decreased drastically every year. Accordingly, the natural increase in population is halved compared with that of 10 years ago. With this trend, the population of South Korea will begin to decrease starting in 2022.
Regarding the record low combined birth rate of 1.16 last year, Kim Geun-tae, the minister of Health and Welfare, said in a press conference on August 24, Measures to boost the birth rate will be devised with the input of a large budget. On the government-wide level, 34 comprehensive measures in five areas are under review.
The five areas include expansion of nursery fee support and an increase in the social investment, expansion of child care infrastructure such as nighttime child care service, development of quality part time model and the creation of an environment that allows women to make career and childrearing compatible, strengthening of social responsibility in regard to pregnancy and child care, such as support for infertile couples, and creation of childbearing and family-friendly social culture.