New census data released Monday shows South Korea’s population falling for the first time in 2020, adding further worries in a nation with one of the lowest birth rates in the world.
South Korea had a total population of 51,829,023 people as of December 31, according to figures released by the Ministry of Interior and Safety. The data also reveals the country had a record low 275,815 births, compared to 307,764 deaths, a change of 3.1% from 2019.
The data also shows South Korea’s population is aging rapidly, with just over 30% of people in their 40s and 50s, and nearly a quarter 60 years old or older.
The ministry said South Korea’s declining birth rates shows there “needs to be a fundamental change in the governmental policies such as welfare, education, and national defense, accordingly."
Experts have pinpointed a number of reasons for the declining birth rate, including the high costs of living, and South Korea’s competitive society that prompts young adults to pursue and maintain high-paying careers at the expense of marriage and children.
President Moon Jae-in recently unveiled a set of initiatives aimed at boosting South Korea’s population, including offering cash bonuses for childbirth, monthly cash allowances for children and expanded benefits for families with multiple children.