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Wedding Bells for the IMF Generation

Posted April. 20, 2007 08:10,   


The marriage rate of the mid to late twenties “IMF generation” that experienced the great financial crisis ten years ago has increased rapidly last year.

The total birth rate (the number of children a woman may have during her lifetime according to the current ratio), which has been dropping since three years ago, looks to heading up again as they fuel the number of marriages and births.

Seoul National University professor Cho Young-tae’s demographics research team announced on April 19 that the Korea National Statistical Office (KNSO)’s “Report on 2006 Marriage Statistics” and the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGAHA)’s social security number statistical analysis revealed the phenomenon.

According to the KNSO, those who were 26 to 30 years old during the financial crisis in 1997 turned 35 to 39 years old last year. Their first marriage rates rose 20.8 percent for men and 23.8 percent for women compared to 2005.

These increase rates are 12.5 percentage points and 9.3 percentage points higher than the first marriage increase rates last year for men (8.3 percent) and women (14.5 percent) between the ages of 20 to 34, respectively. Compared to the first marriage rates of men (6.7 percent) and women (9.3 percent) between the ages of 25 and 29, the numbers are 2.6 to 3.1 times higher.

Professor Cho explains, “The reason why the 35 to 39-year-old demographic’s first marriage rates skyrocketed is because the IMF generation, which experienced the venture business bust and credit card craze in the early 2000s, put off marriage for a long time. Now that they are in their mid to late thirties and have a certain sense of financial security, they want wedding bells to ring.”

This trend, led by those born in the late 1960s to early 1970s during a birth rate surge, is expected to significantly change Korea’s total birth rate.

Cho’s research team analyzed the MOGAHA’s number of birth registrations and discovered that the total birth rate, which dropped to 1.08 in 2005, was 1.11 to 1.12 last year, a 0.03 to 0.04 percentage point increase. The KNSO will announce the official 2006 birth rate early next month.

If it is ascertained through official records that the birth rate did in fact rise last year, this is the first time that the birth rate will have taken a turn for the better since it rose from 1.17 in 2002 to 1.19 in 2003.

Also, the number of newborns in 2006 was 450,566 (MOGAHA standard), 12,000 more than the 438,062 newborns of 2005. This is the first time that the number of newborns has risen in 6 years since the millennium babies in 2000.

Demographic experts say that the belated marriages and births will continue to rise this year, and coupled with the “golden pig year” effect, we can expect a steady increase in birth rates for the second consecutive year.

sanjuck@donga.com jarrett@donga.com