More than 40 percent of newlywed couples had no children last year, reflecting the country's chronically low birthrate and late marriage trend, data showed Thursday.
According to the data compiled by Statistics Korea, 1.32 million couples got married in the five years up to November 2018, down 4.2 percent from a year ago, with 79.6 percent consisting of first-time brides and grooms.
Of that total, 40.2 percent of newlywed couples had no kids last year, up 2.6 percentage points from the previous year.
The proportion was 45.7 percent for couples in which both spouses work. Among couples with a single breadwinner, however, only 34.3 percent were childless.
Of the newlyweds, 21.5 percent had a combined annual income of 30 million won ($28,000) to 50 million won, while 16.4 percent earned 50 million won to 70 million won and 24.9 percent made 10 million won to 30 million won.
In 2018, South Korea's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- hit a record low of 0.98, much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 that would keep South Korea's population stable at 51 million.
The statistics office said South Korea's total fertility rate could remain below 1 until 2024 before edging back to above 1 in 2025 and reaching 1.27 in 2040.
The agency forecast that the number of newborns in South Korea could hover around 290,000 in 2021 before falling to around 210,000 in 2067.
It also said total deaths could reach more than 400,000 in 2028 before rising to 740,000 in 2067, compared with 290,000 in 2017.
The decline in childbirths is blamed on a decline in the number of marriages.
Some young South Koreans are opting to distance themselves from life's three major milestones -- dating, marriage and having children -- because they cannot find decent jobs amid a prolonged economic slowdown.
Other factors are the high cost of private education for kids and skyrocketing real estate prices, as well as the difficulties women face in finding jobs after spending extended time away from work to raise children.