One in five women in Korea in her 30s is single, while in Seoul the ratio is one in three, according to Statistics Korea. Although there are no specific data on the total number of single women, experts believe around 40 percent of working women in their 30s are single, which is in line with what the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service estimates.
A report released on Wednesday by state-run Korea Development Institute on Korea's low birthrate shows that Asian countries like Korea have a lot of women in their 30s who are single.
According to the KDI report, the six countries with the lowest birthrates among 222 countries are all in Asia, including Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Those countries saw more and more women enter the workforce since the 2000s and are seeing a surge in single women in their mid-30s. As of last year, 21.9 percent of women between 35 to 39 were single in Japan, 21 percent in Taiwan, 17 percent in Singapore and 12.6 percent in Korea. The problem is not only that many highly educated women are single, but they do not want to have children.
According to Statistics Korea, 34.2 percent of women in Seoul with university degrees were single as of last year. Women with at least an elementary school education had 3.64 kids on average, but those with college degrees had just 1.69. Cho Nam-hoon of Hanyang University said, "The tendency to shun marriage is the main culprit behind the low birthrate. If we sit by and watch the number of singles rise, we will be unable to deal with the problem."
The KDI report suggests that singles should become more realistic about their choice of mate and lower their expectations. The report stresses that the government must come up with measures to ensure that women do not face any limitations from society when they get married.
Kim Young-chul, a researcher at the KDI, said, "Last year, college enrollment stood at 80.5 percent for women, already surpassing the rate for men of 77.6 percent, while the employment rate for women between 30 and 34 years was 52.9 percent. As long as women adhere to the traditional attitude that their husbands must be better off than they are in all areas, it will be difficult for them to find anyone to marry."
Other problems need to be resolved too, the report said, such as complicated wedding traditions and expensive protocol, the disadvantages married women face at work, and companies that lack childcare facilities.