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Number of students forecast to nearly halve by 2050

By 2050, the number of students in Korea will almost halve due to the country’s low birthrate, threatening to undercut its labor force and economic growth, a report warned Wednesday.

According to the state-run Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, the number of students in 2010 was 10 million but will fall down as low as to 5.6 million in 2050 if the country’s fertility rate continues to stay below 1.3 births per woman. Korean women had six children on average in 1960 but the number rapidly dropped to 1.23 in 2010, the report said.

The significant drop in the number of students is expected leave many teachers out of a job and schools merged or closed down in the next 40 years. Universities are likely to compete to attract freshmen as the entrance quota would exceed the number of high school graduates, it added.

“The low birthrate has become a serious social issue in other countries, but Korea has established a large gap between generations as its birthrate dropped so fast from six births per woman in 1960 to 1.23 in 2010. Korea is the only country that has had extremely low birthrate of below 1.3 per woman for more than 10 years since 2001,” said Lee Sam-sik, a KIHSA researcher at a forum hosted by National Pension Service in Seoul.

The number of new military conscripts is also likely to decline in large numbers, from 642,000 in 2020 to 527,000 in 2050.

The Korean population will start to drop in 2030 after reaching peaking with 52.1 million. The number will decrease to 44 million in 2060 and the proportion of elderly citizens will reach of 40 percent of the whole population, the report said.

The rate of working population in their 50s will increase from 20 percent in 2005 to 40 percent in 2051, it added.

As Korea becomes an aging society in next few years, the country will face a decrease in its productive population, rising social costs and a slowdown in economic growth.

The institute has suggested the government encourage families to have more children, offer jobs for women and senior citizens and devise new plans on the state pension and health care system.

By Cho Chung-un (
Korea Herald Youtube