Fertility rate in S. Korea hits another record low of 0.65

South Korea's total fertility rate fell to a fresh record quarterly low of 0.65 in the fourth quarter of 2023, data showed Wednesday, deepening demographic woes in the country struggling with rapid aging and a fast declining birthrate. The average number of expected births from a woman in her lifetime came to 0.65 in the October-December period, down 0.05 from a year earlier, according to data from Statistics Korea. It marked the lowest figure for any quarterly reading, and it was far below the 2.1 births per woman needed to maintain a stable population without immigration. The total fertility rate for 2023 also dropped to 0.72 from the previous year's 0.78, the data showed. The yearly rate has fallen since 2015 when the figure came to 1.24, and the decline has gathered pace. "The fall in the fertility rate seems to have come as the number of marriages had declined sharply amid the COVID-19 pandemic," an agency official said. The number of babies born in the country in 2023 shed 7.7 percent on-year to an all-time low of 229,970 in 2023. The country's birthrate has been on a constant decline over the past years to fall below the 400,000 mark for the first time ever in 2017 and fall further to below 300,000 in 2020 and to under 250,000 in 2022. In the fourth quarter alone, the number of babies born lost 6.9 percent on-year to 52,618, also the lowest for any fourth-quarter figure ever. Last year's fertility rate was the lowest among member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The country is experiencing grim demographic changes, as many young people opt to postpone or give up on getting married or having babies in line with changing social norms and lifestyles, as well as facing high home prices, a tough job market and an economic slowdown. South Korea is expected to be a highly aged country by 2072 as the median age will increase from 44.9 in 2022 to 63.4 in 2072, and the population will tumble to around 36.22 million in 2072 from last year's 51 million, according to the agency. Source: Yonhap News Agency