The number of childbirths in February hit an all-time monthly low for the month.
Statistics Korea said Wednesday that only 30,600 babies were born in the second month of the year, down an alarming 12.3 percent from February 2016, when the figure was already the lowest February figure on record until then.
The combined number of childbirths in January and February was also a record low at 65,600, down 11.8 percent or 8,800 on-year and the first time that the number dropped below 70,000.
If the trend continues, the number of babies born this year will fall below 400,000 for the first time. The decline seems unstoppable, with last year already seeing a record low birthrate of 406,300.
Marriage statistics bode ill for the future. Some 21,500 couples were married in February, down 4.4 percent from a year earlier, but 8,900 couples divorced, up 9.9 percent.
“It seems unlikely that the number of births will increase significantly in the first half of this year”, a Statistics Korea official said.
Prof. Cho Young-tae at Seoul National University said the reasons are that there are fewer women of childbearing age since the birthrate has been declining for decades now, and many couples are delaying having babies due to the recession.