COVID Made Korea's Demographic Woes Worse

  • By Kim Sung-mo

    May 14, 2021 13:54

    Korea's birthrate is at the risk of falling drastically as a result of the coronavirus lockdown and only exacerbate the aging of its population and dwindling of human resources, experts warned at a forum Thursday.

    At the forum by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs and the Population Association of Korea, demographers warned that a population shock is now all but inevitable. They pointed out that the average age of first marriage has increased by 0.7 years and the number of women planning to have children has dropped by 10 percentage points in lockdown.

    A team led by Prof. Choi Seul-gi of the KDI School of Public Policy and Management, a government-run graduate school, analyzed how lockdown has affected the process of dating, marriage and childbirth.

    According to a poll of 2,000 men and women aged 25-49 in February, the coronavirus epidemic has mean that singles date less and become less inclined to get married. Some 78.1 percent of unmarried respondents said they had neither met nor been set up with a date over the previous year. Some 46.5 percent of unmarried women and 50.4 percent of unmarried men said they had fewer chances to meet potential partners than before the epidemic.

    "I'm afraid that lockdown may have affected their prospects of marriage and childbirth negatively," Choi said.

    Single women who became less inclined to tie the knot vastly outnumbered those who became more inclined at 20.7 percent to just 5.9 percent. It seems that lockdown made many realize that they can manage quite well on their own and do not need a man in their life, researchers speculated.

    Married people with no children, meanwhile, put off plans to have them. Some 42 percent of women and 34.7 percent of men said they have no plans to have babies over the next two years. Some 11.2 percent of women said they want as few children as possible or none, while 7.5 percent they want to wait.

    The team concluded that the average age of marriage has increased by 0.7 years and of first childbirth by 1.1 years. "If the epidemic is prolonged further and continues to affect everything negatively, we need a profound policy rethink," Choi added.

    However, married couples on the whole found that lockdown improved their relationship, giving the lie to pessimists who predicted that they would soon want to kill each other if they were cooped up together at all hours.

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