South Korea, currently holding the title for the world’s lowest birth rate, is facing a further decline in births over the next few years. This decrease is anticipated to bring the nation’s overall population down to levels last seen in the 1970s.
This new data highlights a significant demographic challenge for South Korea and other East Asian countries, such as Japan and Singapore, which are experiencing rapid aging populations shortly after their swift industrial growth.
According to Statistics Korea, they project the country’s total fertility rate – the average number of births per woman over her lifetime – to decline from 0.78 in 2022 to 0.65 by 2025. In a more extreme scenario, this rate could drop to as low as 0.59 by 2026.
While experts anticipate a gradual increase in the fertility rate to 1.08 by 2072, it will still significantly lag behind the 2.1 rate necessary for a stable population without immigration. In comparison, the United States projects its fertility rate to reach 1.66 this year and expects it to rise to 1.75 by 2030. Thanks to immigration, the U.S. continues to experience population growth.
Understanding the Implications of South Korea’s Population Decline
Unlike many European and other industrialized nations, which mitigate aging populations through immigration, countries like South Korea, Japan, and China have not embraced mass immigration as a solution for their shrinking working-age populations.
Due to limited immigration, experts expect South Korea’s total population to decrease from 51.75 million in 2024 to 36.22 million, reaching levels last seen in 1977. In the most severe scenario, the population could drop as low as 30.17 million, the level in 1967.
Regardless of the estimates, South Korea will transform into a significantly aged country by 2072, with the median age escalating from 44.9 in 2022 to 63.4 in 2072. Similarly, the annual number of newborns will likely reduce from 250,000 in 2022 to 160,000 in 2072, a significant 65% decrease.
Source cnn.com : South Korea to see population plummet to 1970s levels, government saysSouth Korea has experienced a declining birth rate since 2015, recording more deaths than births for the first time in 2020, a trend that has persisted.
Observers note similar demographic declines in other Asian countries, including Japan and China, raising concerns about the sufficiency of working-age populations to support the growing elderly demographic.
Experts attribute these demographic changes to various factors, including demanding work cultures, stagnant wages, high living costs, changing attitudes towards marriage and gender equality, and increasing disillusionment among younger generations.
In contrast, North Korea is also showing signs of population concerns. In a recent national conference, leader Kim Jong Un urged the country’s women to counteract the declining birth rate by having more children, describing it as an act of patriotism to expedite the building of a “powerful socialist country.” The United Nations Population Fund estimates North Korea’s fertility rate for 2023 at 1.8 births per woman.