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Tuesday April 23, 2024

South Korea birth rate falls to all-time low

South Korea also has the worst gender pay gap in the OECD, as Korean women bring home about two-thirds of the income then men

By REUTERS
February 29, 2024
This image shows a South Korean newborn, who drinks milk. — AFP/File
This image shows a South Korean newborn, who drinks milk. — AFP/File

SEOUL: South Korea’s fertility rate, already the world’s lowest, continued its dramatic decline in 2023, as women concerned about their career advancement and the financial cost of raising children decided to delay childbirth or to not have babies.

The average number of expected babies for a South Korean woman during her reproductive life fell to a record low of 0.72 from 0.78 in 2022, data from Statistics Korea showed on Wednesday.That is far below the rate of 2.1 per woman needed for a steady population and well behind the rate of 1.24 in 2015 when concerns about issues such as the cost of housing and education were lower. Since 2018, South Korea has been the only Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) member with a rate below 1, defying the billions of dollars spent by the country to try to reverse the trend that led the population to decline for a fourth straight year in 2023.

South Korea also has the worst gender pay gap in the OECD, as Korean women bring home about two-thirds of the income then men.

“Women typically can’t build on their experience to climb higher at workplaces because they are often...the only one doing the childcare (and) often need to rejoin the workforce after extended leaves,” said Jung Jae-hoon, a professor at Seoul Women’s University.The total fertility rate in a specific year is defined as the total number of children that would be born to each woman in her lifetime.