South Korean Marriages – A Decade of Decline

South Korean Marriages

South Korea, a nation known for its technological advancements and vibrant culture, is facing a demographic crisis. Over the last decade, the country has seen a significant 40% drop in the number of marriages, from 322,807 in 2013 to 193,673 in 2023. This decline is causing concern for the government, which is already grappling with a falling birthrate.

According to the December 2023 Population Trends Survey by Statistics Korea, the country experienced significant demographic shifts last year, characterized by declines in both marriage and birth rates. While there was a slight increase in marriages in 2023 compared to 2022, attributed to weddings postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the overall trend remains downward.

The survey also highlighted a sharp fall in second births, which dropped to 91,700 in 2023 – the first time this number has gone below 100,000. This decline is part of a broader trend of decreasing fertility, with the number of second and subsequent births having plummeted by 40 per cent since 2018.

Financial concerns, notably the cost of wedding expenses and housing, are the primary barriers to marriage for many South Koreans in their 20s and 30s. These economic challenges surpass other reasons for not marrying, such as a lack of interest in marriage or concerns about the burdens of childbirth and childcare.

In 2022, around one-third of South Koreans aged 19 to 34 harboured favourable opinions on marriage, a departure from the sentiment in 2012 when over half – 56.5 per cent – of this demographic viewed marriage positively. This change in attitude is more pronounced among women, with only 28% in favour of marriage, compared to 43.8% of men.

A significant change has occurred among Koreans in their 20s, with a diminishing inclination towards marriage. The marriage rate for those aged 25 to 29 fell from 59.5 per cent in 2012 to 36.1 per cent in 2022. Meanwhile, people aged 30 to 34 displayed the strongest proclivity towards marriage, at 39.2 per cent, although this was a decrease from 54.3 percent seen ten years earlier.

In 2021, a striking 97.1 per cent of children in South Korea were born within wedlock, a rate significantly higher than the OECD average of 60 per cent. This means that there is a direct correlation between marriage rates and birth rates in the country, highlighting how changes in the former directly impact the latter.

The decrease in marriages and births is further compounded by the increasing average age of marriage and childbirth, with the average age of women giving birth in 2023 reaching a historic high of 33.6 years. This demographic shift has contributed to South Korea’s total fertility rate falling to a record low of 0.72 in 2023, indicating that only 72 children were born for every 100 couples. This rate varies regionally, with Seoul recording the lowest fertility rate at 0.55.

As South Korea grapples with these demographic challenges, the country’s future will be shaped by how it addresses these issues and adapts to these changing trends.

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25 days ago

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