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Deaths outnumber births for 24 consecutive months

Portion of working age population slides to 1996 level

A view of Sejong on Dec. 18, 2021. Of 17 major cities and provinces in Korea, the administrative city is one the two regions, which posted positive growth in the number of births during the January-October 2021 period, on-year. (The Korea Herald)
A view of Sejong on Dec. 18, 2021. Of 17 major cities and provinces in Korea, the administrative city is one the two regions, which posted positive growth in the number of births during the January-October 2021 period, on-year. (The Korea Herald)
SEJONG -- The number of deaths outstripped that of births for the 24th consecutive month in South Korea, data showed Wednesday, suggesting an obvious demographic downhill phase and the coming crisis over workforce.

According to Statistics Korea, deaths outnumbered births by 7,047 -- 27,783 versus 20,736 -- in October, amid falling marriage rates and record-low fertility rates.

The population decline for Korean nationals -- when changes in the tally for foreign residents in the nation were not reflected -- has continued since the number of deaths overtook that of births in November 2019.

On a cumulative basis for the first 10 months of 2021, deaths outnumbered births by 33,250 -- 257,466 versus 224,216.

Seriousness lies in the fact that the number of births decreased for the 71st consecutive month, starting from December 2015.

The tally for births stood at 224,216 for the first 10 months of the year, which posted a 3.6 percent decline over the same period of 2020. On a yearly basis, the number of births fell below the 300,000 mark for the first time in 2020.

A Statistics Korea official attributed the falling number of births to “the decline in the population of women in their 30s and a steady fall in the number of marriages since 2012.”

The number of marriages posted 15,203 in October, down 7.7 percent from a year earlier. This was the lowest on the basis of each October since the nation started compiling the data.

While the collective number of marriages recorded 155,660 during the January-October 2020 period, it marked a 10.1 percent decrease on-year.

In a similar vein, data from the Ministry of Interior and Safety indicates the severity of the demographic crisis: The number of people under 10 years old (3.77 million) posted less than 50 percent of those in their 40s (8.16 million) and those in their 50s (8.63 million) as of November.

The tally for the youngest age bracket also stood at less than 60 percent of the number of people in their 60s (7.14 million) or those in their 30s (6.73 million). Further, the number of children aged up to 9 were also comparable to the tally for those in their 70s (3.71 million).

The situation is bringing about continuous shrinking in the percentage of the working age population, or those aged 15-64. The portion of the working age population fell to 71 percent last month, according to the Interior Ministry.

This marked the lowest in 25 years, tied with the figure posted in 1996, though this was also due to the sharp growth in seniors, aged 65 or over, whose portion reached an all-time high of 17.1 percent of the total population.

The figure was 73.1 percent in November 2016 and 73.4 percent in November 2011.

A demographic researcher raised the possibility that the figure will go down below the 70 percent mark as early as 2023, with the sliding pace likely accelerating in the mid-2020s.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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