December 26, 2019 13:35
The number of regions in Korea where married couples have no children is on a rapid increase.
Out of 228 cities and provincial towns across the country, the number where the total fertility rate is less than one child increased from 18 in 2015 to 87 last year, according to Statistics Korea. It is expected to reach nearly 100 this year.
This year's total fertility rate -- the total number of children likely to be born to a woman over her lifetime -- is expected to fall even lower than last year.
Prof. Lee Sam-sik at Hanyang University speculated, "This year's fertility rate will fall to 0.91, and the number of babies is barely expected to exceed 300,000."
Alarmingly, Seoul, Incheon and other surrounding cities in Gyeonggi Province will all see the rate fall below one child, the first time ever. The main reasons are an increasing number of young people who refuse to marry and married couples who believe they cannot afford to raise children or simply do not want them.
Statistics Korea predicted that if this trend continues, the fertility rate will continue to remain below 1 until 2024.
A vivid example is the extremely low birthrate in Busan , the country's second largest city. Last year, fewer babies were born there than in Incheon, the country's third largest city, for the first time.
Some 19,152 children were born in Busan compared to Incheon's 20,087 although its population is 480,000 bigger. Busan's total fertility rate plunged from 0.98 in 2017 to 0.9 in 2018, but Incheon's remained at 1. Busan was therefore outpaced by Incheon in terms of the number of primary and secondary school students last year for the first time.
Statistics Korea speculated that without a dramatic reverse, Incheon will overtake Busan to become the country's second largest city by 2034.
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