Only 257,622 couples were married last year. Economic uncertainties, frustration and lack of prospects are the main reasons. The economy is slowing down and many young people cannot find a decent job. There is little hope of earning enough to buy a house, get married and have a child. The demographic transition, due to the low birth rate, is looming over the country.
Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Economic uncertainties, frustration and lack of prospects: these are the main reasons that push hundreds of thousands of South Korean youths to postpone marriage.
This is what emerges from studies conducted throughout the country, which highlight the factors behind the few unions celebrated in South Korea. According to Statistics Korea, an institution within the Ministry of Planning and Finance, only 257,622 couples married in 2018: it is the most negative record since 1972.
South Korea's economy is slowing and many young people are unable to find a decent job. According to government figures, the unemployment rate among young adults - those aged 15 to 29 - was 10.8% last March, much higher than the overall 4.3%. The lack of stable employment affects other areas of life. A survey published last month by the Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs shows that 9.7% of 846 men and 1.5% of 904 women declare that they do not have romantic relationships due to financial reasons.
As evidence of the country's economic problems, two days ago the Bank of Korea declared that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) recorded -0.3% in the first three months of the year, recording the worst performance in almost a decade. Last week, the central bank also reduced growth prospects for Asia's fourth largest economy from 2.6% to 2.5%, citing difficulties and slowing exports.
South Korean youth have little hope of earning enough to buy a house, get married and have a child. This is also due to the high costs to be incurred for the private education of children and the dizzying increase in the real estate market.
According to KB Kookmin Bank - one of the largest South Korean commercial banks - the average price of apartments in Seoul reached a record 829 million won (619,000 euros) in September last year, compared to 480 million (371,000 euros) in December 2008. It was the first time that the average price exceeded 800 million won, in a country where the average available income per family was 41.28 million (32 thousand euros) in 2017.
Many young men and women say that even if they succeeded in getting married, they would avoid conceiving children. The South Korean government has recently launched a task force to address the ramifications of an impending demographic transition that, triggered by the low birth rate, has plagued the country for over a decade. Statistics Korea reports that in 2018 the number of babies in South Korea dropped to 326,900 - a sharp drop from the maximum of 1 million in 1970.
Last year, South Korea's total fertility rate - the average number of children per woman - reached an all-time low of 0.98, much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 which would keep the population stable at 51 million. In March, the statistics agency predicted that the country's population will reach 51.94 million in 2028, before declining to 39.29 million in 2067.
In recent years, the tendency of citizens to remain single has also increased in South Korea, adding to the list of problems related to demographic changes. A report published by the Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs shows that 12.2% of men and 20.6% of women declare that they do not want to go out with someone, in order not to lose the freedom and convenience that comes from living alone. In 2017 there were 5.62 million single-parent families in the country, representing 28.6% of all South Korean families.