Many South Korean women are choosing not to have children. South Korean women are shunning marriage and family life. South Korea’s population declined for the first time, with 275,815 recorded births and 307,764 deaths last year. In 2019, the country’s fertility rate – the average number of children a woman has during her lifetime – stood at 0.92, the lowest among OECD countries.
The previous month, data revealed that almost one in five couples who married in 2015 were still childless. According to Statistics Korea, about 18% of the 216,008 couples who married that year had not had children, compared with just under 13% in 2012.
South Korea’s government has had little success in encouraging couples to have more children, despite incentives that include a one-off payment of 1m won [£666] for pregnant women and 6m won to married couples if they each take three months off work to look after their young children. Government incentives for young couples announced by the president, Moon Jae-in, ignore much bigger financial obstacles to starting a family, such as high education and housing costs.
“Since many South Korean women have jobs these days, they are reluctant to have babies because it is extremely difficult to work and raise a child at the same time,” said Kim Seong-kon, a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University. “Besides, pregnant women have to face serious disadvantages at work in South Korea. To make matters worse, many childcare facilities are not trustworthy, and good ones are hard to get into.”