Fewer and Fewer Children Born in Korea

Some 436,600 children were born in Korea last year, the smallest number recorded since 2005, Statistics Korea said on Thursday. Compared to 2012, the number dropped 9.9 percent from 484,550.

The total fertility rate, the number of children that would be born to a woman in her lifetime, stood at 1.19 children last year, even fewer than the 1.3 recorded in 2012.

The number of newborns is likely to drop below 400,000 in 2030 and to below 300,000 range in the 2050s if the trend continues.

Yoon Yeon-ok at Statistics Korea said, "The number of women of peak childbearing age between 29 and 33 declined by 360,000 compared to the previous year, while more women remain single or marry later in life."

The number of newborns peaked in 1971 when more than a million babies were born. Since then, it has declined in an uneven curve.

This is going to reduce the economically active population aged 15-64 from the present 36.84 million to 32.89 million in 2030, which could result in labor shortages and harm to business.

Lee Sam-sik at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs said, "Companies must boost productivity, but they will have to bring in skilled young workers from abroad in order to maintain their workforce."

Japan, which is also suffering from a low birthrate, is mulling admitting 200,000 skilled immigrants each year to maintain its population at 100 million.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 28, 2014 12:12 KST