The number of births and marriages hit new lows in May, as Korea's childbirths continue to decline for 38 straight months.
According to Statistics Korea, 25,300 babies were born in May, a 9.6 percent decrease compared with the 28,000 babies tallied in the same month of 2018. The number marked the lowest reported for the month since 1981 when the agency started to compile relevant data every month.
The birthrate, which refers to the number of births per 1,000 people a year, also fell to 5.8 in May. It was also the first time the crude birthrate has gone below 6 per 1,000 people since the statistics agency started gathering such data since 2000.
In 2018, Korea's total fertility rate, or the number of babies that a woman is projected to have during her lifetime, hit a record low of 0.98. The number fell way below the recommended level of 2.1, which would keep the nation’s population stable at the current 51 million. The OECD average among the 35 member states stands at 1.68.
The numbers of marriages and births are dropping despite the government’s spending of more than 80 trillion won ($74 billion) to address the problem of the low birthrate, including measures to encourage people to have more children by offering various incentives, such as cash rewards.
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare last year showed that 87.4 percent of 2,000 respondents believed the low birthrate is a serious issue.
Among them, 31.2 percent cited financial burdens from marriage as the main reason for the low birthrate, followed by youth unemployment and job insecurity (19.5 percent) and difficulty in maintaining work-life balance (18.1 percent).
Also, most women responders claimed that their career would be affected by taking maternity leave, while it is difficult for them to return or find a job after finishing their vacation. The survey found 76.6 percent of women feeling uncomfortable with their superiors and colleagues when they take maternity leave.
Other factors included the high cost of private education for kids and skyrocketing home prices.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths came to 24,700 in May, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier.
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