South Korea’s birth rate, already the lowest in the
developed world, has fallen to a new low on factors such as the high cost of
private education despite various government initiatives to prop it up, raising
concerns about the country’s bleak demographic outlook.
The country’s fertility rate — the number of expected
babies per woman — fell to 0.98 in 2018, according to the latest government
data released on Wednesday. It was already the lowest at 1.05 in 2017 among
members of the OECD, far lower than Israel, which was the highest in the
organization with 3.11 expected babies in 2017, the US at 1.77 and Japan’s
The replacement level — the total fertility rate for
developed countries needed to keep the population constant — is 2.1.
Policymakers are also concerned about the country’s
falling potential growth rate due to ageing, with South Korea now having more
economically active people aged over 60 than in their twenties.
Despite growing concerns about the looming labor
shortages, South Korea maintains a strict immigration policy, not allowing
foreign workers to migrate with their families or apply for South Korean
citizenship in most cases.