South Korea's total population of nearly 52 million is set to decline 0.18% by 2021 year-end, for the first time since the country began collecting census data, according to figures released by Statistics Korea.
The country's fertility rate is the lowest in the world at 0.8 children per woman.
The government institution in charge of statistics and census data also mapped out a worst-case scenario, according to which the present population will drop to around 12 million by 2120 — around 23% of today's population.
Moreover, Statistics Korea predicted that the average age of the population is set to rise, from a median of 43 in 2021 to 62 by 2070.
The combination of an aging population and falling birth rates spells trouble for renewing the workforce, while the country faces a bigger spending burden in the form of tax revenue and health care.
$188 billion, €167 billion has been spent in the decade up until 2020 on financial incentives for couples to have children. But so far, the increased spending has had little effect in boosting birth rates.
Figures released by the Seoul Metropolitan Government on December 16 show that the number of marriages in the city has fallen by 43% in the last 20 years, down from 78,745 in 2000 to 44,746 last year. The average age of first marriages was 33 in 2020, up from 29 two decades ago.