December 15, 2023 12:19
Korea's fertility rate or the number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime is expected to fall to 0.65 while the country's working-age population is expected to dwindle by 3.32 million over the next decade. The current birthrate of 0.78 child per woman is already the lowest in the world, prompting experts to liken Korea's population decline to the Black Death. Two years ago, the government projected Korea's birth rate to bottom out at 0.7 and rebound, but a drop in marriages during the coronavirus pandemic resulted in an even worse outlook for childbirth.
A closer look at the figures paints a gloomy picture. Korea's population is forecast to fall below 50 million in 2033 and shrink even further to 36.22 million by 2072. The number of newborns each year, which surpassed 1 million in the 1970s, fell to around 200,000 after 2020. Over the next 50 years, Korea's population will decline by 15 million, with half of the remaining people being senior citizens. The country will not be able to sustain itself.
The cause of the low fertility rate in Korea is no longer a secret. Young people cannot find jobs or afford to buy their own homes, while only degrees from the top universities are likely to get them anywhere in the job market. Making matters worse, couples with children are spending an arm and a leg on education, while the whole country is in a mad dash to move to Seoul. As a result, young Koreans are simply unwilling to tie the knot, and those who do get married choose to remain childless.
The decline in the working-age people is already causing tax revenues to drop, while the aging population results in skyrocketing welfare and medical costs. As long as quality jobs remain scarce, homes remain unattainable and children's education costs soar, no rabbit the government tries to pull out of a hat will work. Jobs, homes, education and welfare must all undergo a radical overhaul to spur young people to marry and have kids. Pension, labor and educational reforms are needed to offer young Koreans a glimmer of hope for the future. Unless that happens, the government will only repeat the mistake of spending hundreds of trillions to boost the birthrate with no results.
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