South Korea's World Lowest Fertility Rate Drops Again

February 23, 2023

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's fertility rate dropped last year to a record low, data showed on Wednesday, in yet another grim milestone for the country with the world's lowest number of expected children for each woman.

The average number of expected babies per South Korean woman over her reproductive life fell to 0.78 in 2022 down from 0.81 a year earlier, the official annual reading from the Statistics Korea showed.

That is the lowest among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which had an average rate of 1.59 in 2020, and far below 1.64 in the United States and 1.33 in Japan the same year.

The government has failed to reverse the falling birth rate despite spending billions of dollars each year on childcare subsidies.

As of 2020, South Korea was the only country among the OECD members to have a rate below 1, giving it a shrinking population.

Being married is seen as a prerequisite to having children in South Korea, but marriages are also plunging in the country amid sky-high costs of housing and education.

The nation's capital Seoul logged the lowest birth rate of 0.59.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi)