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Why are South Koreans not having children?


South Korea is experiencing a significant decline in its birth rate, with projections indicating that the country’s population could halve by 2100. This phenomenon, known as the “birth strike,” is a complex issue that has been attributed to various factors. In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind South Koreans’ reluctance to have children.

Economic Factors

South Korea’s economy has been booming in recent years, but the cost of living is also rising. Many young South Koreans are struggling to find stable employment and affordable housing, which makes starting a family seem like an unattainable goal. Additionally, the cost of raising children is high, particularly in cities.

Cultural Changes

South Korea has undergone rapid modernization over the past few decades, leading to significant cultural changes. Young people are increasingly embracing individualism and prioritizing personal goals over traditional family values. Furthermore, South Korea’s patriarchal society places immense pressure on women to balance career aspirations with domestic responsibilities.

Education and Career Pressure

South Koreans value education and career success highly, which means that many young people delay marriage and starting a family to focus on their studies and career advancement. Moreover, women who become pregnant or take time off work to care for their children face discrimination and stigma in the workplace.

Gender Imbalance

South Korea’s gender imbalance is another factor contributing to the declining birth rate. The country has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world due to its high gender inequality. Women face significant barriers to achieving equal rights and opportunities, such as limited access to healthcare and education, as well as low representation in leadership positions.

Marriage Trends

Marriage rates in South Korea have significantly decreased over the last few decades. Many young people are choosing to remain single, either because they prioritize their careers or have difficulty finding a suitable partner. Additionally, there is a growing trend towards “solo living,” where people choose to live alone rather than with a spouse or family member.

Family Structure

South Korea’s traditional family structure has also undergone significant changes. The extended family system, where multiple generations lived together, has largely been replaced by nuclear families. This shift means that older adults may not have the same level of support to care for their grandchildren, which can discourage younger generations from having children.

Stress and Overwork

South Koreans are known for their intense work culture, which can lead to high levels of stress and overwork. Long work hours and limited vacation time make it difficult for people to balance work and family life. This pressure can be particularly pronounced for women who face expectations to excel in both their careers and domestic duties.

Childcare Services

The availability and affordability of childcare services are essential factors in promoting family growth in South Korea. However, the country’s childcare infrastructure is limited compared to other developed nations, leading to long waiting lists and high costs. This situation leaves many parents struggling to find adequate care for their children.

Fertility Treatment Stigma

While fertility treatments are available in South Korea, they remain stigmatized due to traditional views on infertility and pregnancy. Many couples who need these treatments may feel ashamed or uncomfortable seeking them out, leading to a lack of awareness and access.

Government Policies

The South Korean government has implemented various policies aimed at promoting family growth, such as increased parental leave and financial incentives for having children. However, these initiatives have had limited success due to cultural and economic barriers that are difficult to overcome.


The declining birth rate in South Korea is a complex issue driven by various factors, including economic challenges, cultural changes, and gender inequality. Addressing this issue will require a multi-faceted approach that addresses these underlying causes and prioritizes the needs and desires of young people seeking to start families in the country.

Which country has highest fertility rate?

According to Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, France had the highest fertility rate among the EU member states in 2021 with 1.84 live births per woman. On the other hand, Malta had the lowest rate with 1.13 live births.

Do Koreans have children out of wedlock?

Compared to the majority of OECD countries, Israel, Japan, Korea, and Turkey have a lower percentage of children born outside of marriage, with rates as low as 2-3% in Japan, Korea, and Turkey. However, the trend of children being born outside of marriage has increased in most OECD countries over the past few decades, as shown in Chart SF2.

What age do Koreans have kids?

The current average age for Korean women to have their first child is 33, which is the highest it has ever been. This information was last updated on September 26, 2022.

Why is Korean fertility so low?

Studies indicate that various economic factors, such as income and labor market conditions, along with social and cultural factors like changes in education values, gender roles, and family and health policies, are the key contributors to declining fertility rates.

Are US birth rates declining?

Over the last 50 years, birth rates have significantly decreased for Americans. The authors of the report, Gladys Martinez and Kimberly Daniels, stated that the average number of children per woman dropped from three to two between 1976 and 2018.

Which ethnicity has the most twins?

African-American women have a higher likelihood of having twins compared to other races. Asian and Native American women have the lowest rate of having twins. Caucasian women, particularly those over the age of 35, have the highest rate of giving birth to multiple babies (triplets or more).

One potential solution to South Korea’s birth rate decline is increasing immigration. However, this approach has faced resistance due to concerns about cultural assimilation and preserving the country’s homogeneous identity. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the issue, as travel restrictions have limited the ability of potential immigrants to enter the country.

Another possible solution is to address the gender inequality that exists in South Korea. This could involve implementing policies that promote equal access to education and employment opportunities, as well as addressing cultural norms that place pressure on women to prioritize domestic duties over their careers. Increasing representation of women in leadership positions could also help to promote gender equality and change social norms.

Ultimately, addressing the birth rate decline in South Korea will require a comprehensive approach that takes into account economic, cultural, and social factors. It will require a shift in societal attitudes towards family values and an increased focus on supporting young families through policies that provide access to affordable housing, childcare services, and flexible work arrangements. By addressing these issues, South Korea can work towards creating a more sustainable future for its population.

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