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Total fertility 0.65, number of births halved in 8 years

Total fertility 0.65, number of births halved in 8 years

Posted February. 29, 2024 07:45,   

Updated February. 29, 2024 07:45


The total fertility rate in the fourth quarter of last year was 0.65, marking the lowest ever recorded. The annual total fertility rate managed to remain at 0.7 people, but if this trend persists, this year's fertility rate is anticipated to decline further to 0.6 people. Korea stands as the only country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with a fertility rate in the 0 range. This places it in a comparable situation to Ukraine, which is currently at war with Russia.

As the fertility rate continued to decline each year, the number of births last year amounted to only 230,000. This figure is nearly half of the number of births recorded in 2015 (430,000), highlighting a significant drop over eight years. In Korea, the number of deaths began surpassing the number of births in 2020, resulting in a net decrease of 120,000 in the total population last year. According to Statistics Korea's future population projections, the total population is expected to shrink to around 40 million by 2041. Concerns about the country facing a decline not due to war or disaster but rather from a diminishing population are becoming a tangible reality.

Young people express frustration, saying, "Even if I desire to have a child, it seems impossible." The challenge lies in balancing work and childcare, stemming from a work culture emphasizing extended working hours. Merely 52% of businesses with five or more employees permit employees to take parental leave when necessary, and only 25% of companies have implemented flexible work systems like staggered work schedules. However, forgoing dual income is not a viable option due to the soaring costs of housing and education. Consequently, many are postponing or relinquishing the idea of starting a family.

Several countries that faced low fertility rates before us have successfully reversed the trend through bold policies. For instance, France offers substantial family allowances and avoids discrimination against children from unmarried families in providing this support. In Germany, the state has assumed responsibility for childcare by expanding childcare facilities and full-time care schools. Sweden has implemented a 'father quota' system for parental leave, allowing parents to take up to 480 days of leave. These nations have managed to maintain a fertility rate ranging from 1.5 to 1.8 people.

The government invested approximately 360 trillion won in low fertility reversal policies over the 18-year period since 2006 but failed to create a conducive environment for childbirth and child-rearing. The challenge lies in various projects from different ministries, unrelated to addressing the low birth rate, being presented as fertility promotion policies. Support was inconsistently provided to the necessary systems, making it challenging to see tangible effects. Even at present, there is a need to eliminate superficial policies and concentrate on those proven to be effective, offering robust support. The government should not merely feign concern without a sense of urgency and must address the crisis that significantly impacts the nation's future.