Low Fertility in South Korea: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Responses

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_3804-1



Total fertility rate is defined as the total number of children born or would be born to a woman in her lifetime. Total fertility rate of about 2.1 births per woman is called the population replacement level. Low fertility refers to a total fertility rate below the replacement level. Lowest-low fertility refers to a total fertility rate at or below 1.3.


South Korea is facing a fertility rate crisis. Its rapidly dropping fertility rate is now one of the lowest in the world. In 1960, South Korea’s total fertility rate (TFR) was 6.0, dropping to 4.53 in 1970. Since 1983, the TFR in South Korea has remained below the population replacement level (Lee 2009). In 2003, the TFR dropped to 1.19 and has remained below 1.3 ever since (Stephen 2012). As of 2017, South Korea’s TFR hit a low of 1.05 and is expected to continue to fall, placing the country at risk...
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Byun, Kim, Lee (2010) A study on changes in marriage patterns and their impact on the fertility. KIHASA, SejongGoogle Scholar
  2. Chang HS (1993) Modernisation and changing family structure in Korea. Doctoral dissertation, University of SheffieldGoogle Scholar
  3. Eun KS (2007) Lowest-low fertility in the Republic of Korea: causes, consequences and policy responses. Asia-Pac Popul J 22(2):51–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Korean Government (2006) The first basic planning for low fertility and aged society (2006–2010). Korean Government, SejongGoogle Scholar
  5. Korean Government (2011) The second basic planning for low fertility and aged society (2011–2015). Korean Government, SejongGoogle Scholar
  6. Korean Government (2016) The third basic planning for low fertility and aged society (2016–2020). Korean Government, SejongGoogle Scholar
  7. Lee SS (2009) Low fertility and policy responses in Korea. Jpn J Popul 7(1):57–70Google Scholar
  8. Lee SS (2010) Trends in low fertility and policy responses in Korea. Paper presented at EWC-KIHASA joint conference on the public responses to low fertility and aging society, Seoul, Korea, October 2010Google Scholar
  9. Lee SS, Jung YS, Kim HK, Choi EY, Park SK, Cho NH, … Kang JH (2006) The 2005 national survey on marriage and fertility dynamics. KIHASA, SejongGoogle Scholar
  10. Lee SS, Park JS, Lee SY, Oh MA, Choi HJ, Song MY (2015) The 2015 national survey on fertility and family health and welfare. KIHASA, SejongGoogle Scholar
  11. Lee SS, Choi HJ, Gye BO, Kim KK, Kim DS, Seo MH, … Chun HS (2016) Paradigm shifts in family policy on changes in marriage and fertility behavior. KIHASA, SejongGoogle Scholar
  12. Mahmoudi KM (2017) Rapid decline of fertility rate in South Korea: causes and consequences. Open J Soc Sci 5(07):42–45Google Scholar
  13. Ministry of Health and Welfare (2011) The current state of low fertility and aging population in Korea. MOHW, SejongGoogle Scholar
  14. Ministry of Health and Welfare (2017) 2017 childcare statistics. MOHW, SejongGoogle Scholar
  15. Stephen EH (2012) Bracing for low fertility and a larger elderly population in South Korea. On Korea 6:1–10Google Scholar
  16. The National Statistical Office (2016) Population Projection: 2015–2065. KOSTAT, SejongGoogle Scholar
  17. The National Statistical Office (2018a) 2017 childbirth statistics. KOSTAT, SejongGoogle Scholar
  18. The National Statistical Office (2018b) 2018 statistical analysis of Korean women’s lives. KOSTAT, SejongGoogle Scholar
  19. United Nations (2014) World fertility report 2013: fertility at the extremes. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Whang IJ (1981) Korean national family planning program. East-West Resource Systems Institute, HawaiiGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Governance and Policy EvaluationSungkyunkwan UniversitySeoulKorea