The number of childbirths in South Korea in April fell to a record low level for the month partly after the number of marriage has continued to decline, the government data showed Wednesday. This is another alarming indicator that the country that is rapidly becoming an aged society would suffer from a shortage of eligible workers sooner than expected.
According to data from Statistics Korea on Wednesday, about 30,400 babies were born in April, down 13.6 percent, or 4,800 from a year earlier. It was the lowest April tally since the data had been tracked on a monthly basis after 2000.
The number of newborn babies in the January to April period also dropped to an all-time low of 129,300, down 18,600 from the same period in 2016.
Child births have been extending its double-digit drop, falling by an average of 12.6 percent every month since the beginning of this year. If it continues to fall at this pace, childbirths for this year would reach a fresh record low in the level of 300,000. The number of new babies hit an all-time low of 406,300 in 2016.
The low birthrate has been partly driven by fewer marriages, according to data. Marriages in Korea fell 11.8 percent from a year ago to 20,100 in April, also the lowest April figure.
Women aged between 25 and 34 give births to more babies than any other age group, but those who are in their late 20s are putting off marriages as they are busy seeking jobs or working. Furthermore, the number of women in their early 30s shrank by 110,000 to 1.66 million in April from a year ago.
In Korea where prejudice against children born out of wedlock and unmarried mothers is so strong, the country’s birthrate would remain low if the number of marries continue to decline.
Future outlook is bleak, as in general, marriage tally of two to three years ago affects fertility rates in a certain year. The number of marriages has been on a steady decline from around 320,000 in 2013 to 281,000 in 2016.
By Kim Se-woong
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]