In recent years, South Korea has ranked among the countries with the lowest birth rate in the world. In 2018 it reached values that were below 1, that is, less than 1 child per woman of childbearing age, and since then, the numbers of births have not stopped falling.
According to new records for 2022, the Asian country’s fertility rate has fallen again, becoming the country with the fewest births per woman in the world, 0.78 babies per woman. According to the Bloomberg agency, this fact is further aggravating the challenges of demographic aging for the economy.
The Republic of Korea now presents a population pyramid of the regressive (or bulb) type, with a narrower base than the central one and a significant percentage of older people.
These types of pyramids are typical of developed countries that have low birth and death rates, with low natural growth, giving rise to an aging population with a tendency, in this case, to become increasingly older.
According to different sources, the causes of the decrease in fertility are due to different factors such as the high cost of living, economic pressure or inequality between men and women in the workplace.
According to the BBC correspondent in Seoul Jean Mackenzie, the country has “the worst gender pay gap of any rich country in the world”. “Women who do not want to sacrifice their careers are now simply choosing not to have children.”
In countries like South Korea, there is a social context based on the production of wealth that increasingly pushes addiction to work and professional growth. This affects the aging of the population, generating negative economic consequences such as higher public spending derived from the increase in the medical needs of the elderly, retirement pensions or the decrease in the workforce.
But it is also necessary to highlight how it affects the lifestyle of people, the fact of delaying or rejecting the formation of a family or the change from shared house to single-person houses. As we explained on another occasion in the Bioethics Observatory, a study published in the medical journal The British Journal of Psychiatry identified that isolation, lack of social support or not being able to communicate with another person considerably increase the rates of depression and suicide at worrying levels.
On March 8, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol insisted on the need to take measures to deal with these alarming figures. The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, has also announced that combating the low birth rate will be the main priority of his government. To do this, he intends to implement a package of “unprecedented” measures to promote the birth rate, using stable financial sources, as announced by the Japanese public television NHK.
As shown in the following ranking from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, there are many countries with birth rates well below the generational replacement needs, with the disastrous current and future consequences that this entails. The gradual loss of value of the family must be taken into account as one of the most determining factors in the demographic collapse to which societies built on the desire for wealth lead. They encourage individualism and lack of solidarity.