South Korea faces alarming population decline, economic challenges ahead

South Korea faces a stark demographic crisis with a projected 10 million decline in its economically active population by 2044 due to critically low birth rates. Experts warn of severe economic and social consequences if the issue remains unaddressed.

South Korea’s economically active population is projected to plunge by nearly 10 million by 2044, according to a report released on Monday by the Korean Peninsula Population Institute for the Future. This stark decline is attributed to the country’s critically low birth rates, highlighting the demographic crisis South Korea is grappling with.

The data reveals that the number of people aged 15 to 64, which stood at 36.57 million in 2023, is expected to decrease to 27.17 million in 2044. Furthermore, the number of elementary school freshmen, which was 430,000 last year, is set to halve to 220,000 by 2033 nearly.

The institute’s report also painted a grim picture of the nation’s population trajectory, estimating that the number of deaths will reach 746,000 in 2060, compared to just 156,000 births. This natural population decline of 590,000 is expected to cause South Korea’s total population, estimated at 51.71 million in 2023, to drop to 39.69 million by 2065.

According to the report, the institute warned that the decline in the economically active population would damage consumption, leading to the collapse of the domestic market. It also cautioned that the decline would increase the burden of supporting the senior population, resulting in an economic slowdown and prolonged low growth.

The report mentioned that South Korea had been struggling with a chronically low birth rate for years, with the total fertility rate reaching a record low of 0.72 in 2023, far below the 2.1 births per woman needed to maintain a stable population without immigration. It further stated that in February 2024, only 19,362 babies were born, marking the lowest number for any February since records began in 1981.
The government has implemented various measures to encourage childbirth, including subsidies and parental leave policies, but these efforts have yet to yield significant results. Experts warn that if left unaddressed, the demographic crisis could have severe economic and social consequences for South Korea in the coming decades.