The Korea Herald


[News Focus] Korea to rank bottom in youth population in OECD

Japan poised to outstrip Korea in portion of people aged under 15

By Kim Yon-se

Published : Oct. 4, 2021 - 15:41

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Headquarters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Headquarters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
SEJONG -- South Korea is likely to become the country whose portion of the youth population is the lowest among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in the coming months.

There is also a possibility that Korea will rank the world’s bottom in the portion of youth population, unofficially.

According to the Paris-based organization, Korea recorded 12.2 percent in the percentage of youth population -- or those aged between 0-14 -- of the entire population in 2020, placing 37th of the 38 OECD members.

This was the second lowest, next to 12 percent in Japan, far falling short of the OECD average at 17.7 percent, the average of Group of 20 at 20.7 percent, and the average of the European Union at 15.1 percent.
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald) (Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)

Given that the declining pace in the youth population portion was faster in Korea than in Japan (which has been posting the lowest figure for several years in the OECD) over the past four years, Korea will likely be outstripped by the latter as early as in the first half of 2022.

Korea saw the portion of youth population fall by 1.2 percentage points from 13.4 percent in 2016 to 12.2 percent in 2020, while Japan posted a 0.4 percentage point decline from 12.4 percent to 12.0 percent.

Data from the Ministry of Interior and Safety of Korea showed that the people, aged under 15, stayed at 11.97 percent -- 6.18 million of the total 51.66 million -- as of August 2021.

As of December 2020, more accurate figures for Korea and Japan from the OECD were 12.16 percent and 11.95 percent, respectively.

Given that the tally for the world average reached 25.4 percent last year, there is a high possibility that Korea will have the smallest proportion of people aged 0-14 in the world, on an unofficial basis though, as well as in the OECD next year.

Among 14 nonmembers, additionally compared by the OECD, 26.2 percent was seen in India, 20.9 percent in Brazil, and 17.7 percent in both China and Russia. All of the 14 nations posted higher figures than Korea’s.

Over the past five decades since 1970, Korea has recorded the steepest decrease among the OECD members in the proportion of youth population. Among the contributing factors were the government-led birth control in the 1970s and 1980s, falling marriage rates and record-low fertility rates.

In 1970, Koreans aged under 15 made up 42.5 percent of the population in the wake of the nation’s baby boomers, who were born between 1955 and 1963.

Korea ranked No. 4 in a retrospective comparison of the 38 members of the OECD, which looked back at youth populations relative to total country populations in the year.

While Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica recorded more than 45 percent in 1970, the majority of OECD members posted figures far below Korea’s. The youth population of Japan stood at 24 percent in the year, US with 28.3 percent, the OECD average with 28.8 percent and the world average with 37.5 percent.

But, amid a steep drop since then, the figure for Korea fell short of the OECD average the first time in history in 2005 by 19.2 percent vs. 19.4 percent.

The figure further slid to 16.1 percent in 2010, 15.1 percent in 2012, 14.2 percent in 2014, 13.4 percent in 2016 and 12.8 percent in 2018.

In 2020, Israel had the highest portion with 28.1 percent, followed by Mexico at 25.8 percent, Colombia at 25.4 percent, Turkey at 23 percent, Costa Rica at 21.8 percent, Ireland at 20.2 percent and Chile at 19.2 percent.

Others, which posted figures above the OECD average, included New Zealand (19 percent), Iceland (18.7 percent), Australia (18.6 percent) and the US (18.3 percent).

Among other countries with figures between 15-17 percent were the UK, France, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Canada and the Netherlands.

Those with figures under the 15 percent mark included Spain, Austria, Greece, Germany and Portugal. Italy, the third-lowest among the 38 economies, logged 12.9 percent.