Natural decline in S. Korea’s population hits all-time high in November

Seoul is likely to see its population, sink below 9.5 million during the first half of 2022.

Kim Yon-se

Kim Yon-se

The Korea Herald


This posting at a community center in Jamsil-dong, Seoul, earlier this month informs residents of government policy to offer 2 million won ($1,670) to households with newborns. (Yonhap)

January 27, 2022

SEJONG – South Korea’s monthly decline in population reached the record-high of more than 8,000 in November, with the demographic tally losing by more than 40,000 for the first 11 months of 2021, state data showed Wednesday.

This suggests that government policies to promote marriages and births have lacked efficacy in terms of easing worries over the so-called demographic cliff.

According to Statistics Korea, the number of births stayed at 19,800 in November. This marked the second-lowest in history since the nation started compiling relevant data, following December 2020 data of 19,641.

The number of deaths came to 28,426 in the month, under which the “natural” decline in population, on-month basis, came to an all-time high of 8,626. But this calculation does not reflect changes in the number of foreign nationals staying in the nation or Koreans residing overseas, which affect the population.

Over the first 11 months of last year, the natural growth in population reached minus 41,875 as deaths continued to outnumber births in the nation.

When it comes to the period of 25 months from November 2019 — when the demographic figure entered a downhill phase — to November 2021, the collective growth posted minus 81,665. The number of deaths continued to outpace that of births for the 25th consecutive month.

Data showed that the yearly tally for marriages also fell sharply from 302,828 in 2015 to 213,502 in 2020 amid steady declines for the five years.

Given 172,748 in the number of marriages for the first 11 months of 2021 and just 17,088 in November, there is a high possibility that the yearly tally for marriages is estimated to have stayed under 200,000 for the first time in 2021.

Compared to the January to November period of 2020, the marriage figure for the corresponding period of 2021 slid by 9.7 percent.

Of the eight major cities and nine provinces in Korea, Seoul posted the highest negative growth in the tally for marriages, as the capital saw the figure lose by 16.9 percent for the first 11 months on-year.

The seriousness could be seen in Gyeonggi Province, which is the nation’s most populous region with its number of residents still increasing. The figure for marriages in the province declined by 5.4 percent.

Sejong, one of the only two regions recording continuous positive growth in population, saw the tally for marriages fall by 10.9 percent.

Unlike the drastically falling figure for marriage, the number of divorces in Korea is maintaining at similar levels, ranging between 100,000 and 110,000, from 2015 to 2020.

Divorces tallied 92,951 for the first 11 months of 2021. Though it marked a fall by 4.5 percent on-year, the yearly figure is estimated to have approached or surpassed the 100,000 mark given 8,770 in November.

According to statistics unveiled by the Ministry of Interior and Safety, the nation’s population recorded 51.63 million at the end of 2021, compared with 51.82 million at the end of 2020.

After peaking at 51.85 million in November 2019, the current demographic figure has continued to drop to stay at a similar level with 51.63 million, posted in July 2016.

Seoul, which has suffered sharp declines for more than five years, is likely to see its population, sink below 9.5 million during the first half of 2022.The figure for the capital is estimated to have peaked at 10.31 million in February 2011, the Interior Ministry data showed.

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