A simulation conducted by South Korea’s National Assembly Research Service using last year’s birth rate of 1.19 children per woman and found that the country’s 50 million population will decrease by 10 million in 2056 and by 30 million in 2100. By 2750, at the current birth rate, there will be no South Koreans.
South Korea has among the lowest birth rates of any country—the World Factbook’s 2014 statistics put it slightly higher, at 1.25, but that’s still well short of the 2.1 births per woman needed to maintain a stable population.
The decreasing birth rate is attributed to social and economic changes in a country that has gone from developing to developed in a generation. Many women now in the workforce want to delay marriage. Raising a family is hard when both members of a couple work—South Koreans have the longest work hours among OECD countries. Add to that the spiraling costs of raising and educating children: the Ministry of Health and Welfare reported in 2013, it cost more than 300 million won ($263,000) to raise a child from birth to university graduation. (In Beijing, the average cost is 429,000 yuan, or about $69,700.)
Policy makers are seeking to provide public child care for 30% of the country’s children by 2017 so that more women can balance demands of work with having children. They’re also trying to encourage paternity leave, hoping women will be encouraged to have children if fathers play a bigger role in the rearing process.