As widely expected, the fewest number of babies were born in South Korea last year with the figure slipping below the psychologically-important 400,000 threshold to raise concerns for faster thinning in population.
According to data released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday, 357,700 babies were born in 2017, down 11.9 percent from a year ago and the lowest since the data was traced in 1970.
The last time the annual tally fell by double digits was 2002.
The government has spent 100 trillion won ($89 billion) over the last decade to elevate birth rates, but to no avail.
The fertility rate, or the number of babies that a woman is expected to have during her lifetime, slipped to 1.05 last year from 1.17 in 2016, which is the bottom in the scale of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Only three - Korea, Poland and Portugal - among OECD members are categorized as “ultra-low birth rate societies” with a rate below 1.3. To maintain the current population, replacement birth rate of 2.1 is necessary. The OECD average was 1.68 in 2015.
Meanwhile, death toll accelerated as the result of increasing population of senior citizens. Death count rose 1.7 percent to 285,600 last year, highest since the data has been traced from 1983.
By Lee Yu-sup and Lee Ha-yeon
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]