- 1 South Korea is in Demographic Crisis as Many Stop Having Babies
South Korea is in Demographic Crisis as Many Stop Having Babies
Despite being a country with one of the youngest populations, South Korea is facing a demographic crisis as many people are starting to stop having babies. Our country’s population is expected to shrink for the first time in 2021. This decline will be particularly acute in coastal areas, where the number of babies born in South Korea is predicted to drop by almost a third.
The population shrinks for the first time in 2021
During the last two years, the population of South Korea has been going down. This will be the first time that the country’s population has declined in decades.
The government has been aware of the problem for a long time. The recent Korean government has promised to enact social reforms and combat the declining birth rate. They have also offered financial incentives to couples who want to have more children.
However, many South Koreans do not feel obliged to have children. They cite economic factors, such as an uncertain job market, gender inequality, and expensive housing. They also complain about the patriarchal culture. Many women choose to work instead of having children, and some choose to go to school.
In the 1950s, the average South Korean woman had four or six children. Today, he has less than two children.
Parents invest all their money in one child
Investing all your money into a single child in South Korea is no small feat. This is especially true when you consider the state of the economy, the impending demographic apocalypse, and the rising cost of living. The government makes it easier for parents to have children by subsidizing maternity leave and offering a 300,000-won bonus every month until the child turns two. But this may not be enough to encourage young South Koreans to have children.
According to a recent survey, 90 percent of respondents found the cost of raising children to be the most burdensome thing in their lives. The cost of groceries jumped 7.8 percent in August. Even housing costs increased by 20 percent. In short, it is not surprising that people prefer to spend time and money on themselves.
South Korea feels isolated from the country
Having children is not as easy in South Korea as it used to be. It costs a lot of money to raise children in a competitive society. Moreover, women face discrimination at work. The social stigma attached to being childfree is also a big problem.
The problem is compounded by the fact that South Korea has a low fertility rate. This means that our nation’s population will begin to shrink in the future. This can lead to labor shortages and general economic stagnation. It also means the government must rely on immigrants and higher taxes to shore up its social safety net.
South Korea’s demographic crisis is both a crisis of nationalism and democracy. It threatens the country’s social and political stability and can change its democratic trajectory. The challenge is to reimagine the national story to accommodate changing demographic realities.
national story can be reimagined
Historically, South Korea’s national story has been an ethnocentric story. The self-image as an ethnically homogeneous nation has been fostered by the government that has been clinging to its ethnonationalist superiority in implementing policies. The result is a demographic deficit. With a low fertility rate and an aging population, South Korea faces many economic, social and political challenges. The government has taken an inconsistent approach to the new demographic reality.
In short, South Korea’s national story is a crisis of nationalism and a crisis of democracy. For example, the government has failed to fulfill its pro-multicultural promises. The latest crop of marriage migrants has basically turned into a cultural assimilationist training program. This could spell trouble for the country’s democratic credentials.
Yoo Young Yi’s grandmother gave birth to six children. His mother gave birth to two. Yoo doesn’t want anything.
“My husband and I love babies very much … but there are things we have to sacrifice if we raise children,” said Yoo, a 30-year-old employee of a Seoul finance company. “So it became a choice between two things, and we agreed to focus more on ourselves.”
There are many like Yoo in South Korea who have chosen either not to have children or not to marry. Other developed countries have similar trends, but South Korea’s demographic crisis is worse.
South Korea’s statistics agency announced in September that the total fertility rate – the average number of babies born to each woman in her reproductive years – was 0.81 last year. It is the lowest in the world for the third year in a row.
The population shrank for the first time in 2021, prompting worries that the decline could severely damage the economy – the world’s 10th largest – due to labor shortages and higher welfare spending as the aging population rises and the number of taxpayers shrinks.
President Yoon Suk Yeol has instructed policymakers to find more effective measures to deal with the problem. Fertility rates, he said, are rising despite South Korea spending 280 trillion won ($210 billion) over the past 16 years to try to raise the tide.
Many young South Koreans say that, unlike their parents and grandparents, they feel no obligation to have a family. They cite the uncertainty of a bleak job market, expensive housing, gender and social inequality, low levels of social mobility and the high cost of raising children in a brutally competitive society. Women also complain about a persistent patriarchal culture that forces them to do a lot of child care while enduring discrimination in the workplace.
“In short, people think our country is not an easy place to live,” said Lee So-Young, a population policy expert at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs. “They believe that their children can’t have a better life than they did, and it’s a question of why they should bother having babies.”
Many people who fail to get into good schools and decent jobs feel they have become “broken” who “can’t be happy” even after getting married and having children because South Korea doesn’t have a well-developed social safety net, said Choi Yoon Kyung, an expert on Korea. Institute of Child Care and Education. She said South Korea failed to establish such a welfare program during its explosive economic growth in the 1960-80s.
Yoo, a Seoul financial worker, said that until college, she really wanted a baby. But he changed when he saw female office colleagues calling their children from the company toilets to check on them or leaving early when their children were sick. She said her male colleague should not do this.
“After seeing this, I realized my concentration at work will be greatly reduced if I have a baby,” said Yoo.
Her 34-year-old husband, Jo Jun Hwi, said he does not expect to have children. An employee at an information technology company, Jo said she wanted to enjoy her life after years of exhaustive job hunting that left her “feeling like I was standing on the edge of a cliff.”
There are no official figures on how many South Koreans choose not to marry or have children. But records from the national statistics agency show there were about 193,000 marriages in South Korea last year, down from a peak of 430,000 in 1996. The agency’s data also shows about 260,600 babies were born in South Korea last year, down from 691,200 in 1996. and a peak of 1 million in 1971. The latest figure is the lowest since the statistical agency began compiling such data in 1970.
Kang Han Byeol, a 33-year-old graphic designer who decided to remain single, believes that South Korea is not a good place to raise children. He cited frustration with gender inequality, widespread digital sex crimes targeting women such as hidden spy cams in public bathrooms, and a culture of neglect that pushes for social justice.
“I can consider marriage when our society becomes more healthy and gives more equal status to women and men,” Kang said.
Kang Ha Hyunji’s roommate, 26, also decided to stay single after a married girl friend asked her not to get married because of her busy schedule and child care. Ha worried about the large amount of money he will spend on all the private lessons of future children to prevent them from falling behind in the education-obsessed nation.
“I can live happily without marriage and enjoy my life with my friends,” said Ha, who runs a cocktail bar in Seoul.
Until the mid-1990s, South Korea maintained a birth control program, which was originally launched to slow the post-war population explosion. The nation distributes free contraceptive pills and condoms at public medical centers and offers military reserve training exemptions for men if they have had a vasectomy.
UN figures show that South Korean women on average gave birth to about four to six children in the 1950s and 60s, three to four in the 1970s, and less than two in the mid-1980s.
South Korea has offered various incentives and other support programs for those who have given birth to many children. But Choi, the expert, said fertility rates had fallen too quickly to see any real effects. During a meeting of a government task force last month, officials said they intend to formulate comprehensive measures to address demographic challenges.
South Korean society still frowns on people who remain childfree or single.
In 2021 when Yoo and Jo posted their decision to live without children on their YouTube channel, “You Young You Young,” several messages called them “selfish” and asked them to pay more taxes. The message also called Jo “sterile” and accused Yoo of “gassing” her husband.
Lee Sung-jai, a 75-year-old Seoul resident, said it was the “natural order” for mankind to marry and bear children.
“Today, I saw some young women (single) walking with dogs in strollers and saying that they are mothers. Did they give birth to those dogs? They are really crazy,” he said.
Seo Ji Seong, 38, said she was often called a patriot by older people for having so many babies, even though she did not give birth to them for the national interest. She is expecting her fifth baby in January.
Seo’s family recently moved into a rent-free apartment in Anyang city, which is jointly provided by the state-run and city-run Korea Land and Housing Corporation for families with at least four children. Seo and her husband, Kim Dong Uk, 33, received other state support, although it was still difficult economically to raise their four children.
Kim said she enjoys watching each of her children grow up with different personalities and talents, while Seo feels her children’s social skills are helped by playing and competing at home.
“It’s all so cute. That’s why I keep having babies even though it’s hard,” Seo said.
The number of live births was 445 thousand people. The average number of live births per day is 1,219 people. The fertility rate for mothers aged 30 to 34 years was recorded as the highest number of 100.8. The decrease in the number of live births for mothers aged 25 to 29 accounted for 61.6 percent of the total decrease.
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