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Seoul, Feb 22 – The number of babies born in South Korea reached yet another fresh low in 2022, with deaths outpacing births for the third consecutive year, new data revealed on Wednesday.
A total of 249,000 babies were born last year, falling 4.4 per cent from the previous record low in 2021, according to the data from Statistics Korea.
The country’s total fertility rate, the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, came to 0.78 in 2022. It also marked the lowest since 1970, when the statistics agency began compiling related data, reports Yonhap News Agency.
Last year marked the fifth straight year the rate was below one.
Experts believe the rate should be at least 2.1 to keep South Korea’s population stable at 52 million.
South Korea has been dogged by a chronic decline in childbirths as many young people delay or give up on having babies in the face of an economic slowdown and high home prices.
Reflecting this, the average age of mothers giving birth came to 33.5 in 2022, up 0.2 from a year earlier.
Women gave birth to their first child at 33 on average, followed by second and third at 34.2 and 35.6, respectively.
The data showed that for every 1,000 South Korean women in their late 20s, 24 babies were born in 2022, down 3.5 from a year earlier.
Women in their late 30s, on the other hand, held a comparable figure of 44, up 0.5 on-year.
The report added that 31.5 per cent of newly wedded couples had their first child within two years.
The number of deaths, on the other hand, came to 372,800 in 2022, soaring 17.4 per cent from a year earlier.
Asia’s No. 4 economy reported more deaths than births for the first time in 2020.
In 2022, deaths outpaced births by a record-high figure of 120,000, marking a drastic turnaround from 1981, when the country saw a natural increase of 630,000.
Among South Korea’s 16 major cities and provinces, Sejong, located 120 km south of Seoul, was the only city that had more births than deaths in 2022.
The statistics agency earlier estimated the country’s population to suffer a natural decrease of 200,000 or above starting in 2038.
In December 2022, a total of 16,803 babies were born, down 2.2 per cent from a year earlier, while deaths advanced 5.4 per cent to 33,360.
The number of marriages reached 19,883, up 0.6 per cent on-year in December, while divorces shot up 10.4 per cent to 7,821, the data showed.