SEJONG, Aug. 30 (Korea Bizwire) -- South Korea’s fertility rate fell to a seven-year low in 2016 despite all efforts to tackle fewer babies being born in the country and the rapid population aging, government data showed Wednesday.
The total fertility rate, or the average number of babies that a woman is projected to have during her lifetime, reached 1.17 in 2016, down from 1.24 tallied a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.
The 2016 figure marked the lowest ebb since 2009 when it stood at 1.15. The fertility number had bottomed out at 1.12 in 2006.
The number of newborns also declined 7.3 percent, or 32,000, to an all-time low of 406,200 last year.
The average age that a woman had her first child was 31.4 last year, up from 31.2 years in 2015. Some 26.4 percent of first-time moms were over 35 years of age in 2016.
Such a trend is not new in South Korea where an increasing number of women work and want to hold onto their careers. This has led to many getting married later than in the past and having children at older ages.
To tackle the worrisome low-rate trend, the South Korean government has been encouraging people to have more children by offering various incentives, including cash rewards. The chronically low birthrate and aging population are feared to hurt Asia’s fourth-largest economy by reducing the workforce and driving up welfare costs.
But based on the available 2015 data, South Korea has the lowest fertility rate among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), followed by Poland at 1.29 and Portugal with 1.3.
The average birthrate of OECD countries stood at 1.68 as of 2015.