Korea's total fertility rate ranks 217th among 222 countries this year with a mere 1.23 babies per woman, according to the 2011 CIA World Factbook quoted by the Korea Development Institute on Wednesday.
The fertility rate is the average number of children that would be born to a woman during her productive years between ages 15 and 49.
Korea's fertility rate has stood at about 1.2 babies per woman since the mid 2000s, ranking near the bottom of the world. Last year, the country came 219th with a rate of 1.21 babies.
KDI researcher Kim Young-chul said, "The problem is that many married couples don't want to have children, and young people are delaying marriage or are deciding to remain unmarried all their lives."
Low fertility rates are a common phenomenon among Asian economic powers. Five other Asian economies -- Japan (1.21), Taiwan (1.15), Singapore (1.11), Hong Kong (1.07), and Macau (0.92) -- rank even lower than Korea, and all of them enjoy a high level of economic openness and development .
"In Asia, marriage is a precondition for childbirth. But many single women are avoiding marriage because it costs too much to get married in the first place and because they'll have to take responsibility for most of child rearing and housework after they get married," Kim said. He called for more equal treatment for women now that so many of them have jobs.