South Korea currently has a fertility rate of 0.84, which is the lowest in the world and significantly below the minimum required to sustain their population. Given this strong reduction, does their government have any plans on how to increase it in the future?

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    I really dislike questions like this because they presume that this is something the government sees as an issue and therefore plans to solve. How do you know the government wants to increase it?
    – uberhaxed
    May 25, 2023 at 16:35
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    @uberhaxed they will see a drastic working age population collapse very soon if they don't do something about this. Literally their whole economy would collapse at these hyper-low birth rates, this is not sustainable in the slightest. May 25, 2023 at 16:52
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    @JonathanReez Perhaps you should update your question and add that as a context, because all schools teach is how a growing population is a danger to planet earth. So most are not aware of the disadvantage of an ageing population that isn't being replenished in a "balanced" manner.
    – sfxedit
    May 25, 2023 at 17:57
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    They give some sort of a "baby allowance" to new parents. They increased that amount quite a bit recently. Apart from this, I don't know what else they're doing.
    – whoisit
    May 25, 2023 at 18:08
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    Please note that 0.84 is by one metric, the World Bank's. By the more customary UN metrics, SK sits at 1.1.. They're still the lowest, just a little bit less outlier than one might expect when one is used to UN numbers and World Bank ones get used instead. May 25, 2023 at 22:11

1 Answer 1


Apparently the current government thinks more money on the same kind of policies that didn't work too well before will actually solve (or at least ameliorate) the problem, as NPR relates:

President Yoon Suk Yeol said in September that the government has poured more than $200 billion into programs to support new mothers in the past 16 years alone, only to watch the fertility rate drop more than 25% in that time span.

At the center of the government response is a pledge to increase the stipend given to parents with a child under the age of 1 from 300,000 won per month (about $230) to 1 million won ($765) by 2024.

The country's child care policies are also among the best in the world, according to UNICEF, and continue to expand. The government announced plans in January to increase the paid parental leave period from one year to a year-and-a-half.

Another source (Asahi Shimbun) gives that (old) figure as "224 trillion won since 2006 on measures against the falling fertility rates" (which checks out to about 168 billion USD at current exchange rates.) Asahi also says that the problem is more acute in Seoul, with its high cost of living, and high cost of education, where the birth rate is only 0.64. Places (outside Seoul) with free kindergarten seem to fare better. E.g it was 1.28 in the new administrative capital of Sejong.

However, getting high-tech businesses to spread more through the country has proven a more difficult task, despite some plans in that direction too.

Knowledge-based industries with high added value, such as information and communication technology, are concentrated in the Seoul capital area, while manufacturing, where the value is decreasing day by day, is based in the rural areas.

As explained further in that piece, the government is trying to create more "techno valleys" outside of Pangyo. (Pangyo is only about 20km from Seoul center, according to Google Maps, so essentially part of its greater metropolitan area.) The same is true for higher-up corporate jobs:

most companies have their headquarters located in Seoul, and mid-sized companies that were in some regional areas are also moving their headquarters to the Seoul capital area. Of the top 100 companies by market capitalization in 2022, 86 companies have their headquarters located in the Seoul capital area. There is a clear difference between the Seoul capital area and the rural areas not only related to the location of corporate headquarters, but also in the quantity and quality of jobs. According to Job Korea, Korea's representative job offer site, as of May 5, 2022, 124,883 jobs were found in Seoul, 82,365 jobs in Gyeonggi province, and 18,166 jobs in Incheon. There was a total of 154,414 job announcements in the Seoul capital area, a huge difference from 63,483 jobs in non-Seoul capital areas. There were no places with more than 10,000 job postings in non-Seoul metropolitan cities or provinces. Even if we simply compare the absolute number of jobs, we can confirm that the Seoul capital area has far more jobs than non-metropolitan areas.

As it is difficult to find a job in rural areas, many young people are moving to the Seoul capital area. Professor Kim Kyung-hoe of the Department of Education at Sungshin Women's University said, "The social and cultural infrastructure are all concentrated in Seoul, so most people want to live in Seoul. There are no fascinating jobs in rural areas,” he said. In conclusion, the problems of education and workplaces are exacerbating the expansion of the Seoul capital area.

More/cheaper childcare seems to convince some, but not the majority of South Koreans:

In a survey carried out for the Joongang Ilbo newspaper earlier this year, 27.4 percent of respondents said they believed the burden of childcare costs is the primary reason for low birth rates. Other cited reasons included job insecurity, housing instability and other economic factors. [...]

In 2022, South Koreans’ spending on private education hit a new record, with total annual spending reaching 26 trillion won ($19.6bn) and almost 80 percent of all students receiving some form of private education.

It doesn't look like the SK government sees the rest of the socio-economic conditions as amenable to change, much, given their current plans. But critics point out these matter too:

Professor Song Da-yeong, a social welfare professor at Incheon National University, said cash allowances were not a long-term solution. [...]

South Korea has some of the longest work hours among developed countries and is ranked in the Economist’s annual glass-ceiling index as the worst OECD country for women to pursue equal opportunities in the workplace.

“It needs to include policies such as using up all parental leave available, reduced work hours and flexible work arrangements,” Song said, emphasising the need for an environment where women are not “kicked out of the labour market” after giving birth.

Although South Korea’s traditionally patriarchal attitudes are gradually changing, women are often still expected – and in some cases feel obligated – to become full-time mothers after giving birth.


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