April 27, 2023 13:21
Only 19,939 babies were born in February, the first time the number for the month fell below 20,000 since records began, Statistics Korea said Wednesday.
The number of newborns is usually relatively high in the first three months of the year, but now the figure fell to a record low, which could bring the total fertility rate to less than last year's all-time low of 0.78.
Parents tended to prefer their children to be born from January to March so they are ready for school at the earliest possible age. By the same token they avoid giving birth in November and December, because that would group their kids with younger children when they start school. Childbirths therefore dropped below 20,000 in the months of November and December.
But this year's lower birthrate is party due to the coronavirus pandemic, when marriages dropped below 200,000 per year.
Lee Sam-sik at the Korea Population, Health and Welfare Association said, "Considering the pregnancy period, the fertility rate will be lower than last year, and the number of births is estimated to be 220,000 to 240,000, down from 249,031 last year."
Korea's population continues to decline as deaths outnumber births. It dwindled by 7,452 in February, marking the 40th consecutive month that the figure has fallen.
But marriages are increasing this year, so the population may yet rebound. In February, 17,846 couples tied the knot, up 16.6 percent from 15,305 during the same month of last year.
Cho Young-tae at Seoul National University said, "Childbirth is likely to increase some time next year as marriages are expected to rise."
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