The number of births fell below 400,000 in 2017 for the first time. If the trend continues, fewer than 300,000 babies will be born in 2022, a study projects.
The study, led by Cho Young-tae at Seoul National University and released Sunday, reveals that the marriage rate is closely correlated to the following year's birthrate. Cho conducted it by surveying women who married between 2010 and 2016.
Based on the conclusions, the birthrate for this year is expected to reach only about 344,000 babies.
The total fertility rate -- the average number of children born to a woman aged between 15 and 49 over her lifetime -- is therefore expected to fall to 1.05-1.06. It was 1.06 last year.
In 2022, Cho forecast, only 298,000 babies will be born. In the 1980s, the number was still above 800,000 and in the 1990s around 700,000. The decrease is even sharper than in Japan, which has a notoriously low birthrate.
The total fertility rate here has plummeted dramatically from six children per woman in 1960 to 1.17 in 2016, compared to a slow decline in Japan from two to 1.44 over the same period.