No effective remedies yet as baby bust sets new record

2024.02.29 11:03:02 | 2024.02.29 11:03:54

[Photo by Lee Chung-woo]이미지 확대

[Photo by Lee Chung-woo]

South Korea set a fresh record for the world‘s lowest fertility rate in 2023. The number of babies expected per woman in a lifetime fell to 0.72 last year from 0.78 in 2022, according to data released Wednesday by South Korea’s national statistics office. If this trend continues, the country could have good reason to worry about the chronically low birth rate.

Many developed countries are struggling with low birth rates, but the issue is particularly acute in Korea. As of 2021, the average fertility rate for the 28 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was 1.58 and all countries had higher rates than Korea, with Israel at 3. Even Japan, which has been taking drastic measures to address its own low birth rate, had a higher rate than Korea at 1.25.

Many young Koreans say having children does not make you happier. In a more competitive society, married couples are increasingly giving up on having children because they cannot afford to provide the support the children will need. Fewer parents now want their adult children to marry and have a child.

Amid a widespread pessimistic view about the future in Korea, there are calls for an overhaul of how the government runs the committee responsible for demographic policy, known as the National Council on Low Birth Rates and Aging Population.

There are those who respect the council’s contributions over the past two decades, but critics say the country needs robust inter-ministerial coordination to combat low birth rates.

They say a state-level council run under the leadership of former President Lee Myung-bak could give insight into what should be done to address today‘s demographic issues. Lee conducted meetings at the National Competitiveness Council every month during his tenure to facilitate decision-making between a range of government ministries. The council, which was a partnership between the private and public sectors, played a significant role in fueling the momentum in policymaking on nationwide issues.

Korea needs a new solution for a long-standing problem, and policymaking also needs to change.

By Editorial Team

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