In South Korea that suffers from its lowest birth rate and highest youth jobless rate, the number of people tying the knot last year fell to its lowest in 42 years, the government’s latest demographic data showed.
According to data released by the Statistics Korea on Wednesday, the number of couples got married last year stood at 281,600, down 21,200 from a year earlier. The figure is the lowest since 1974 when it was 259,600. There were 5.5 marriages in every 1,000 people, which is also the lowest since 1970 when the government started to record data.
The downward trend is mainly driven by the dwindling pool of young people in their late 20s and early 30s, which dropped 170,000 from a year ago, date showed. As baby boomers’ children born between 1979 and 1982 are in their late 30s, people in their best ages of marriage were born after 1983 when the nation started to see the birth rate plunge below 2.1. According to data from the Statistics Korea revealed late last month, the country’s number of newborn babies in 2016 totaled 406,300, the lowest tally since the data was tracked from 1970.
The country’s prolonged sluggish economy that has prevented young people from getting stable jobs has also dragged down the marriage rate. The unemployment rate of people aged between 15 and 29 came to a record high of 9.8 percent last year, and the number of people in this age group who gave up looking for a job increased last month by 11,600.
On top of the unstable employment, the exorbitant housing costs have made it much harder for people to get married. “The number of marriages is on the decline as it gets more and more difficult for the nation’s youth to be economically independent,” said Lee Ji-yeon, an official from the Statistics Korea.
With young people delaying marriages, the average age of first marriages for men and women went up by 0.2 year and 0.1 year from a year ago to 32.8 years old and 30.1 years old respectively in 2016. The number of new marriages has been on a steady drop over the last five consecutive years. The figure briefly rebounded in 2010 and 2011 after falling three years in a row since 2007.
By Kim Se-woong
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