Korea's Birthrate Falls to New Low

Korea's birthrate hit a record low last year due to a declining population of women of childbearing age and as a growing number of women married later in life.

Statistics Korea said Tuesday that only 8.6 babies were born per 1,000 Koreans, the lowest since records began in 1970.

In 1970, the rate was 31.2 babies, but that fell to less than 20 in 1983 and has hovered at nine since 2004.

A total of 436,500 babies were born last year, which was the second fewest since 2005, just after the credit card bubble burst, and a decrease from 484,600 a year earlier, the year of the black dragon believed to be auspicious for marriage and childbirth, when many couples rushed to have babies.

Statistics Korea said the average Korean woman is expected to give birth to 1.187 babies in her lifetime, ranking the country nearly at the bottom among the 34 member nations of the OECD.

The number fell to 0.968 in Seoul, the only city in the country where it is less than one.

The total population of women of childbearing age (15 to 49) stood at 13 million last year, down 760,000 from a decade ago. The average age of women in their peak childbearing years is 31.84, up 0.22 year compared to 2012.

A growing number of women are having their first child later in life. Yun Yeon-ok at Statistics Korea, said, "The population of childbearing women is shrinking and this trend looks to continue."

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 27, 2014 10:04 KST