SEOUL, Nov. 24 (Yonhap) -- The number of babies born in South Korea fell to a record low in September, data showed Wednesday, underscoring the country's bleak demographic situation with the chronically low birth rate.
A total of 21,920 babies were born in September, down 6.7 percent from the previous year, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.
It marked the lowest for any September since 1981, when the statistics agency began compiling related data.
In the third quarter, the number of newborns also reached an all-time low of 66,563, down 3.4 percent from a year earlier.
South Korea is struggling with a chronic decline in childbirths, as many young people delay and give up on getting married or having babies amid a prolonged economic slowdown and skyrocketing housing prices.
In the July-September period, the country's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- stood at an all-time low of 0.82, down from 0.84 the previous year and the lowest for any third quarter.
South Korea's total fertility rate hit a record low of 0.84 last year. It marked the third straight year that the rate was below 1 percent.
The number of deaths, meanwhile, increased for the seventh straight month in September amid rapid aging.
The number of deaths came to 25,566 in the month, up 5 percent from a year earlier. It marked the highest for any September since 1983, when the agency started compiling related data.
In the third quarter, that of deaths rose 4.7 percent on-year to 77,077.
Accordingly, the country's population declined by 3,646 in September, marking the 23rd consecutive month of decline.
In the first nine months of the year, the country reported a natural fall of population by 26,204.
South Korea reported the first natural decline in population in 2020, as the number of deaths outpaced that of newborns.
Policymakers warned the country may face an "age quake" in 2030-40, an earthquake-like demographic shock from a fall in population and aging population, if it does not tackle demographic challenges in a timely manner.
Meanwhile, the number of people getting married declined 10.4 percent on-year to 13,733 in September. It was also the lowest for any September.
Amid the downtrend of marriages, more people postponed or delayed their weddings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the statistics office.
Divorces declined 12.3 percent to 8,366 in the month, the data showed.
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