Fertility rate in S. Korea hits record low in Q3

November 29, 2023

South Korea’s total fertility rate fell to a record quarterly low of 0.7 in the third quarter of 2023, in yet another grim milestone for the country struggling with rapid aging and a falling birthrate.

The average number of expected babies a woman bears in her lifetime came to 0.7 in the July-September period, down 0.1 from a year earlier, according to data from Statistics Korea.

It marked the lowest figure for any third-quarter readings since the agency began compiling related data in 2009.

The total fertility rate came to 0.7 in the fourth quarter of last year, but rebounded to 0.81 in the first quarter of this year before skidding again to 0.7 in the second quarter.

The rate was much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 that would keep South Korea’s population stable at 51 million, according to the agency.

This file photo taken April 5, 2018, shows beds for infants at a general hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap)
This file photo taken April 5, 2018, shows beds for infants at a general hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The number of babies born in South Korea fell 11.5 percent on-year to 56,794 in the third quarter of 2023, the lowest for any third-quarter figures since 1981.

The number of deaths grew 2.1 percent on-year to 87,143 in the third quarter, the data showed.

The number of marriages also fell to a record third-quarter low of 41,706, logging an 8.2 percent on-year fall.

The country saw 23,061 divorces in the third quarter, a fall of 3.6 percent from a year earlier.

The country has suffered a chronic decline in childbirths 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 in the face of high home prices, a tough job market and an economic slowdown.

In September alone, a total of 18,707 babies were born, down 14.6 percent from a year earlier.

It marked the lowest level for any September, and was the sharpest on-year fall since November 2020, when the country reported a 15.5 percent decline in the number of newborns, or 3,673 babies.

The number of deaths grew 3 percent on-year to 28,364 in September, and the country, accordingly, suffered a natural decline in population by 9,657 that month.

South Korea reported the first natural fall in its population in 2019, and the trend of deaths surpassing births has continued for 47 consecutive months, the agency said.

The number of marriages sank 12.3 percent on-year to 12,941 cases in September, also the lowest figure for the month, and divorces also slid 8.1 percent on-year to 7,504.