Population Decline Now Firmly Established Trend

  • By Choi Jong-seok

    January 16, 2023 12:57

    Korea's population dwindled for the third year running last year, firmly establishing the decline in the statistics, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety on Sunday.
    The country's population shrank by 200,000 or 0.4 percent to reach 51.44 million by the end of last year. It was the third decline in a row from a peak of 51.85 million in 2019. The pace is also picking up. In 2020, the population shrank by just 20,000 in 2020, but that speeded up to 190,000 in 2021.
    A ministry official said, "This is largely due to the falling birthrate because many young people don't want to have babies." Only 254,628 babies were born last year, falling below 260,000 for the first time.
    Korea is well on the way to becoming a "super-aged" society where over 20 percent of the population are elderly. Already last year the 5.2 million women over 65 made up 20.1 percent of the total female population, but the 4.07 million men in the age group accounted for only 15.9 percent of the male population, bringing the total to 18 percent.
    More elderly people mean a heavier financial burden on the working-age population.
    The gender gap is the biggest on record, with a female population of 25.8 million, 165,000 more than men. The female population only overtook the male population for the first time in 2015 as families' traditional preference for sons disappeared. Women are expected to outnumber men in increasing proportion because women live longer.
    But deaths are also on the rise, from 307,764 in 2020 to 372,631 last year. They increased by 54,208 last year as the coronavirus pandemic kept many people with chronic diseases from getting treatment.
    "The population will decline more rapidly in the future," said Cho Young-tae at Seoul National University. "The decline will get out of control once the baby boomers now in their 60s begin to take up the majority of deaths."
    However, the number of households increased by 233,000 or one percent on-year to 23.71 million last year because more and more people live alone. Some 9.72 million lived alone, accounting for 41 percent of all households.
    "One-person households will highly likely surpass 10 million by the end of this year," the official said. One- and two-person households took up a whopping 65.2 percent of households while larger households shrank apace. That brought the average number of people per household to an all-time low of just 2.17.
    People in their 50s now account for the largest proportion of the population at 17 percent, followed by 40-somethings at 16 percent and 60-somethings at 14 percent.
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