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‘Korea’s ultra-low birthrate needs state of emergency declaration’
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2019.10.21 15:29
  • Updated 2019.10.21 15:33
  • comments 0

A lawmaker criticized the government’s naïve response to the nation’s low birthrate and called for more aggressive measures.

Rep. Oh Jae-sae of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea

Rep. Oh Jae-sae of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea said Monday the low birthrate was regarded as a serious social issue in Japan when the fertility rate fell below 1.43 and the number of newborns a year failed to reach 1 million.

In Korea, the situation was worse, but the government did not do much to tackle the problem, he said.

“Korea’s birthrate marked 0.98, the only country among OECD to have a birthrate below 1. The number of newborns is likely to fail to reach 300,000 per year soon. However, the government’s response was poor, missing the precious timing to resolve the ultra-low birth rate problem,” Oh said.

According to Oh, Korea’s total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- was 1.05 in 2017, compared with the OECD’s average of 1.65 and Japan’s 1.43. Moreover, the gap between the OECD’s average and that of Korea is even widening.

The gap widened from 0.41 percentage points in 2012 to 0.60 percentage points in 2017. Korea’s fertility rate plunged by 0.48 in the past 30 years, marking the steepest fall among OECD.

If the ultra-low birthrate continues, a higher proportion of the aged population will weigh on economic growth.

Samsung Economic Research Institute said under a persistent low birthrate, Korea’s population aged 65 or more will account for 38.2 percent of the total population by 2050, up from 16.4 percent in 2021. During the same period, the economic growth rate will turn from 2.1 percent to minus 4.8 percent, it said.

“There is no other country where the birthrate fell below 1. The government should declare the ultra-low birthrate as a state of emergency. The ruling and opposition parties should stop political disputes and set up a joint emergency committee,” Oh said.

Oh emphasized that the nation had only 10 years to solve the low fertility rate problem.

The nation needs to benchmark European countries where social welfare expansion led to high birthrate and put together all the capabilities of the private and public sector to tackle the ultra-low birthrate, he added.


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