02/26/2010, 00.00
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South Korea has world’s lowest birth rate

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
For the second consecutive year, the number of births declined from 466,000 in 2008 to 445,000 in 2009. The fertility rate among women 15 to 49 now stands at 1.14, a drop of .04 per cent. The net result is an aging population, a trend that will inevitably affect the country’s welfare system.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – The number of children born in South Korea dropped for a second straight year in 2009 as people tended to delay marriage and have fewer babies, this according to a report by South Korea’s National Statistical Office (NSO). This has given South Korea the lowest birth rate in the world, an NSO official said.

The number of newborn babies in 2009 dropped by 21,000 to 445,000 (-4.4 per cent) compared with 466,000 newborn babies in 2008. The number of newborn babies had also decreased in 2008 by 27,000 from the previous year.

The average number of babies per woman between the ages of 15 and 49 over their lifetime fell .04 percent from 2008 to 1.14. “This is the world’s lowest fertility rate excluding some city-states,” an NSO official said.

Such a trend means a fast-aging population, who will place a greater financial burden on the government. It also means a smaller workforce and higher welfare transfers and pension payments. Younger generations who enter the labour market will have a greater burden to shoulder.

The average age of those giving birth rose to 31 years, a 0.2 increase from 2008; this too has been attributed to later marriages.

As a result, the number of mothers in their 30s giving birth to newborns now exceeds the number of mothers in their 20s. A total of 43.4 per cent of newborn babies have mothers in their early 30s, whilst newborn babies with mothers in their late 20s remains at 35.2 per cent.

The decrease in birth rate from mothers in their late 20s contributed to the total decrease in the birth rate. The drop in the number of newborn babies from mothers in their late 20s was 13,000 out of a total of 21,000 compared to 2008.

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