South Korea Braces for Low Fertility, Marriage Rates
South Korea is facing a crisis as the country's fertility rate continues to hit record lows. In February, the government reported that the total fertility rate – the average number of expected babies per South Korean woman during her reproductive age – dropped to 0.78 in 2022, down from 0.81 in 2021. This is much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 that would keep Korea's population stable at 51.5 million.
At the same time, marriage rates have also declined by more than 35% in the last 10 years, as South Koreans are increasingly prioritizing work over starting a family. The number of marriages in South Korea crashed to yet another record low in 2022, data showed on Thursday. Overall, the number of marriages in 2022 plunged to a record-low of 191,690, down 0.4% from 2021.
In 2022, the average age for grooms getting married for the first time rose to a new peak of 33.7, a 0.4 increase from the year before. Brides also hit a new record of 31.3, a 0.2 increase from the preceding year. In 2022, there were 17,000 South Koreans who married foreign spouses, a 27.2% increase from the year before.
According to Statistics Korea, the main cause of the decrease in marriages is the decreasing population of people aged between 25 and 49, and it is projected that this will lead to a sharper drop in the current world-lowest birth rate. The record high average age of brides getting married was 31.3 years old.
In South Korea, marriage and procreation are seen as interconnected, and births outside wedlock are still uncommon. Experts say that a rate of 2.1 is necessary for a country to have a stable population without migration, but it could take years for the nation to reach that point. The government is working to reverse the trend by providing financial support and other measures to encourage couples to have more children.
0. “Over half of young women willing to give birth: survey” 코리아타임스, 7 Mar. 2023, https://koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2023/03/281_346636.html
1. “The Number of Marriages in #SouthKorea Crashed to Yet Another Record Low in 2022, Data … – Latest Tweet” LatestLY, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.latestly.com/socially/india/news/the-number-of-marriages-in-southkorea-crashed-to-yet-another-record-low-in-2022-data-latest-tweet-by-ians-india-4953998.html
2. “International marriages hit 3-year high amid eased entry restrictions” 코리아타임스, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/biz/2023/03/488_347231.html
3. “Marriages in S. Korea hit fresh low in 2022” Yonhap News Agency, 16 Mar. 2023, https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20230316002600320
4. “I Do Not: Why fewer and fewer couples are getting married in South Korea” Firstpost, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.firstpost.com/explainers/i-do-not-why-fewer-and-fewer-couples-are-getting-married-in-south-korea-12310532.html
5. “South Korea has the world's lowest fertility rate, a struggle with lessons for us all” NPR, 19 Mar. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/03/19/1163341684/south-korea-fertility-rate