It’s hard to believe that populations can decline in a world of seven billion people. But that may be the case in South Korea, where the populations may dwindle to extinction by 2750, according to a new report commissioned by the country’s National Assembly Research Service.
Currently standing at about 50 million, South Korea has been facing a population crisis. Its fertility rates are among the world’s lowest, with the average South Korean woman having about 1.25 children, according to The Wall Street Journal. The population is expected to drop gradually as fertility also drops; by the end of the century, the population is expected to be around 20 million with a fertility rate of 1.19 children per woman. By 2136, it could be around 10 million, and by 2413, its second largest city, Busan, will be void of South Koreans, followed by Seoul in 2505.
“Our low birth rate is a very grave problem that threatens the existence of the nation,” said Yang Seung-jo, the parliamentary member who commissioned the report, according to the Financial Times. These drops in fertility rates are largely blamed widespread campaigns during the 1980s to restrict family sizes. During the 1950s, the nation, along with many others in the region, was experiencing a developmental boom, which resulted in rapid declines in death rates, but consistently high birth rates — there was no balance between the two. But the campaigns to reduce child bearing worked too well, and fell below the two-child-per-woman replacement rate.
Now, the country is trying to rebound, and despite grave predictions, The Journal notes that the future of North Korea is unknown, and that there may one day be changes in South Korea’s immigration policy. Nevertheless, the country is experiencing the same fate as Japan, which announced two years ago that its last child would probably be born in 3011. However, its fertility rate, at 1.4 children, is still better than South Korea’s.
Though these population problems are currently being seen in East Asia, some experts believe that population decline will eventually affect the rest of the world too. Driven partially by more women achieving financial independence and not always having children, as well as a complacency in the fact that the world isn’t as dangerous with war, disease, or famine as it used to be — growing the family line isn’t a priority anymore.
In fact, birth rates are already starting to decline, according to Slate. From 1960 to 2009, fertility rates in Mexico dropped from 7.3 to 2.4. In India, they dropped from six to 2.5, and in Brazil, they went from 6.15 to 1.9. The United States isn’t immune to this trend either. A 2012 Pew Research Center report found that 2011 birth rates fell to their lowest ever.
Of course, the future is far away, and we still have plenty of time to pick these numbers up. However, whether or not we’ll have the resources to take care of these newly growing populations is another issue.