August 23, 2018 10:40
Some 357,771 babies were born last year, down 48,472 from the previous year, with the total fertility rate dropping from 1.172 to 1.05 over the same period, Statistics Korea said Wednesday.
This year the fertility rate is expected to drop to less than one child per woman. Only 82,000 babies were born in the second quarter this year, down 8.5 percent, bringing the fertility rate down to 0.97.
The fertility rate fell to 0.94 in the fourth quarter last year but rebounded to 1.07 in the first quarter this year before plunging again. In June, some 26,400 babies were born, a whopping 2,500 or 8.7 percent fewer than in June last year.
Childbirth has fallen for 31 months in a row on-year. The population is therefore expected to decline in only nine years' time, four years earlier than Statistics Korea projected in 2015.
In Seoul the birthrate was at an all-time low of 0.84 last year. Other regions such as Incheon (1.0), Gyeonggi Province (1.07), Daejeon (1.08) and North Jeolla Province (1.15) also hit a record low.
The low birthrate in the Seoul metropolitan region is considered a sign that the birthrate will continue a downward trend throughout the country.
Prof. Lee Sam-sik of Hanyang University said, "There are worries that the birthrate decline that has begun among white-collar professionals in big cities will spread fast to rural areas."
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