Declining birthrate has posed a serious demographic challenge before South Korea
Seoul, Jan 18: When in India population explosion has become a hot debating topic, far away in South Korea, population decline has become a serious issue. The South Korean government has even ventured to offer financial incentives to young couples for having more children.
The ageing population and low birth rate have posed a serious threat to South Korea which represents the fourth largest economy in Asia. The country is currently facing economic slowdown and in order to overcome this declining trend, the South Korean government is offering financial incentives to young couples to have more children.
In addition to low fertility rate, South Korea is fast marching towards becoming a nation of the aged with 13.2 percent of its total population is over 65. ‘Statistics Korea’ reports that people aged over 65 could reach more than 12.9 million, or 24.5 percent of the population, by 2030. Nations become an ‘aged society’ if people over 65 make up 14 percent or more.
South Korea's total fertility rate – the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime – stood at 1.24 in 2015, much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 that would keep South Korea's population of 51 million stable.
In light of the situation, the government is trying to increase what is one of the lowest birth rates in the world at a time when many young people are postponing marriage because of the country’s economic problems.
Earlier this week, acting President Hwang Kyo-Ahn called on officials to address South Korea’s baby crunch and encourage young people to have more babies.
The government has spent more than 101.6 trillion won (US$ 87 billion) from 2006 to 2016 to encourage people to do just that; however, so far it has not been enough to boost the low birth rate.
Increasing population of above 65 years is taking South Korea towards the 'aged nation' status
This year, the government said it has set aside more than 22.4 trillion won (US$ 19.3 billion) to help raise the country’s birth rate.
Lee Suk-Hwa, head of Cheongyang County, said that last year his administration began to give 10 million won (US$ 8,600) to parents who have a fourth child in an effort to encourage more young people to have more children in rural areas.
Kim Man-soo, mayor of Bucheon, a city near Seoul, said his municipality revised an ordinance to offer, among other things, 10 million won to parents who have a fourth baby to boost the city’s birth rate – the lowest in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds Seoul. In the past, Bucheon only gave 500,000 won to parents who had a third child.
Wando Island, in the south, offers a lump sum of five million won (US$ 4,300) and another 15 million won (US$ 13,000) in instalments over three years for those who have a fifth child.
In 1960, South Korea adopted a policy of birth control to stem rapid population growth at a time when the country was rebuilding its economy from the ashes of the 1950-1953 Korean War.
At that time, the government sent officials into rural homes to explain its family planning. Officials encouraged people to have only one child and provided free of vasectomy in an attempt to lower the rapid population growth.
The aggressive birth control policy lowered the total fertility rate to 2.06 in 1983 from 6.0 in 1960.
Afterwards, it dropped to a record low of 1.08 in 2005, a dramatic demographic transition that set off alarm bells with respect to South Korea’s population policy.
Since then the government has been struggling to reverse the demographic decline by offering a number of incentives to young people.
Government slogans on childbirth have also undergone a change from dire warnings to hope. One of the slogans issued in 2005 read “a baby is the joy of a family and hope for the future.”