SEOUL — In South Korea, fewer women are having kids and people who do are in no rush. The sky-high costs of housing and schooling make monetary safety a should. Social mores additionally dictate the have to be married.
Lim Eun-young, a 34-year-old public servant, says she just isn’t prepared to start out a household as a result of costs and as she solely started courting her boyfriend a number of months in the past. However nervous that her organic clock is ticking, she had a few of her eggs frozen in November.
Ms. Lim was one in all about 1,200 single single women who underwent the process final 12 months at CHA Medical Middle — a quantity that has doubled over two years. CHA is South Korea’s largest fertility clinic chain with about 30% of the IVF market.
“It’s a big relief and it gives me peace of mind to know that I have healthy eggs frozen right here,” she mentioned.
Freezing eggs to purchase reproductive time is an possibility more and more explored by women worldwide. However in South Korea, which has the doubtful distinction of getting one of many world’s lowest fertility charges, the dramatic leap in women utilizing CHA’s companies throws into sharp reduction the financial burdens and social constraints resulting in choices to delay and even forgo having kids.
The fertility charge — the typical variety of kids born to a lady over her reproductive life — in South Korea was simply 0.81 final 12 months. That compares with a median charge of 1.59 for OECD nations in 2020.
That’s additionally regardless of huge sums spent by South Korean authorities on subsidies and perks for households with kids. The federal government budgeted 46.7 trillion gained ($37 billion) final 12 months to fund insurance policies aimed toward tackling the nation’s low beginning charge.
A lot of the blame for South Korean reticence to have kids is laid on a extremely aggressive and costly schooling system that makes cram colleges and personal tutoring a reality of life for most children from a younger age.
“We hear from married couples and watch reality TV shows about how expensive it is to raise kids in terms of education costs and everything, and all these worries translate to fewer marriages and babies,” mentioned Ms. Lim.
Housing costs have additionally surged. A median residence in Seoul, as an illustration, costs an estimated 19 years of South Korea’s median annual family earnings, up from 11 years in 2017.
Cho So-Younger, a 32-year-old nurse at CHA who plans to freeze her eggs this coming July, can be eager to get to a greater place financially earlier than having a baby.
“If I get married now and give birth, I can’t give my baby the kind of environment I had when I grew up…I want better housing, a better neighborhood and better food to eat,” she mentioned.
However even when funds are much less of a consideration, being married is seen as a prerequisite to having kids in South Korea. Simply 2% of births in South Korea happen out of wedlock in comparison with a median of 41% for OECD nations.
In truth, whereas single South Korean women are capable of freeze their eggs, they will’t legally proceed with a sperm donation and the implanting of an embryo except married — a problem thrust into the highlight by Sayuri Fujita, a Japanese movie star and single mom primarily based in South Korea who had to return to Japan for a sperm donation.
That should change, argues Jung Jae-hoon, a social welfare research professor at Seoul Women’s College, noting marriages in South Korea dropped to a file low of 192,500 final 12 months. That’s down round 40% from a decade earlier. Even when taking a look at marriage ranges in 2019 to low cost the impact of the pandemic, the decline remains to be an enormous 27%.
“The least the government can do is to not get in the way of those out there who are willing to shoulder the financial burden of having a baby,” he mentioned.
Much more worrying are the statistics exhibiting a pointy drop-off in willingness to have kids in any respect.
Some 52% of South Koreans of their 20s don’t plan to have kids once they get married, an enormous leap from 29% in 2015, in accordance with a survey performed in 2020 by the nation’s gender and household ministry. ($1 = 1,276 gained) — Reuters