South Korea's total fertility rate hit a record low of 0.98 in 2018 despite the astronomical amount of money spent to tackle its low birth rate. Accordingly, the country has become the only country in the world with a fertility rate below 1.
The country’s total fertility rate stood at 0.98 in 2018, down 0.08, or 7.1 percent, from 1.05 a year ago, according to data from Statistics Korea on Aug. 28. The total fertility rate refers to the average number of expected babies a woman bears between the age of 15 and 49.
South Korea is actually the only country to see the figure fall below 1. The total fertility rate of Japan, the representative of countries that have experienced exceptionally low birth rates, was 1.42 last year, while that of Taiwan and Singapore was 1.06 and 1.14, respectively. Only Macao, which had only 670,000 of the total population, showed a lower birth rate at 0.92 than South Korea. In short, the figure for South Korea is the lowest among members of the OECD. The total fertility rate of OECD member states averaged 1.68 in 2018.
South Korea’s fertility rate is on the slide, though the government injected more than 100 trillion won (US$82.32 billion) of money over the past decade. The National Assembly Budget Office said.
The budgets invested to boost the birth rate came to 143 trillion won (US$117.75 billion) from 2006 to last year. The number of new born babies stood 24,051 in June, down 8.7 percent or 2,306 from a year earlier, according to a report on the population trend released by Statistics Korea on Aug. 28. The figure by month has hit a new low for 39 months in a row from April 2016.
Jung Jae-hoon, social welfare professor at Seoul Women's University, said, “The low total fertility rate is a complex problem tangled with difficulties of finding balance between work and home life, career breaks of women and lack of women in their 30s to give birth due to a notion of preferring a son to a daughter in the past. I don’t think there are effective measures to raise the total fertility rate now."
The biggest cause of such a low birth rate is the rapid rise in the number of younger people who choose to stay single. In fact, the number of marriages decreased by 2,664, or 12.9 percent, on year to 17,946 in June. The figure fell below 20,000 in June for the first time since the government started collecting relevant statistics in 1981.