Ask a Korean! News: Korea's Impending Population Crisis

The latest report by Statistics Korea on Korea’s rapid greying is hair-raising, hopefully even for those who do not take Korea’s low fertility problem seriously. Today, approximately 70% of Korea’s population is in the working age (between 15 and 64.) Stated differently, 100 Koreans in working age are supporting around 37 children and the elderly. But by 2060, less than 50% of Korea’s population is projected to be in working age. In other words, by 2060, 100 Koreans in working age are supporting 101 children and the elderly. The total population will decrease to 43 million.

(The graphic from Yonhap News starkly shows the consequence of greying Korea.)

Even more frightening is the fact that this estimate is not based on the assumption that the current fertility rate of 1.23 will continue, but based on the assumption that the fertility rate will rise all the way until 2045. If it were assumed that the fertility rate will fall to 1.01 and the inbound immigration does not increase, by 2060 Korea will only have 34.5 million people, around 33% drop from 50 million people that it currently has.

Even assuming increased inbound immigration and significant increase in fertility rate, Korea’s choice appears to be between gradual, manageable population decrease or rapid, catastrophic population decrease. Even under the most optimistic scenario, in which fertility rate increases to 1.78 per couple and inbound immigration dramatically increases, Korea would still have a decreasing size of population by 2060.

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