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    Did South Korea’s Population Policy Work Too Well?

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    Did South Korea's Population Policy Work Too Well?


    March 27, 2010


    Carl Haub

    Demographer Emeritus


    Children, Youth, and Families World and U.S. Population Trends

    Many developing countries adopted policies to slow population growth in the latter half of the 20th century in response to population growth rates that had risen to three or more times greater than those ever observed in industrialized countries. Developing countries experienced rapid declines in their death rates after 1950 with no offsetting decline in birth rates, as had previously occurred in Europe and North America. Some policies had great success, some partial success, and others little or none. South Korea serves as one example of a former developing country whose program to lower the birth rate had an unexpected result: Fertility so far below the “two-child” replacement level that severe population aging and decline in population size is now a very real prospect. South Korea was also one of the few developing countries to have initiated a population policy to lower the birth rate during the period of concern in the 1960s and 1970s over the population “explosion”; and to have its birth rate subsequently fall to world record low levels.

    South Korea is far from alone in experiencing very low fertility. About 35 countries worldwide have total fertility rates (TFRs) of 1.5 children or below. There has been speculation that such a development may signal a longer-term change in childbearing in industrialized societies than was once thought. Demographer Wolfgang Lutz and colleagues have suggested that decreases in birth rates may constitute a real change in societal norms, something he labels a type of “low-fertility trap.”1

    Smaller Families and Economic Development in the 1960s and 1970s

    Following the Korean War in the early 1950s, South Korea’s population remained primarily rural and agricultural. Its TFR exceeded six children per woman. In 1962, South Korea began its national family planning campaign to reduce women’s unwanted births through a program of information, basic maternal and child health services, and the provision of family planning supplies and services. The program was seen as essential if the goals of economic growth and modernization were to be achieved. Overall, the public responded well to the idea of a “small and prosperous family.” By 1970, the TFR had fallen to 4.5 against a background of rapid industrialization and the waning of the country’s largely agrarian character. A 1974 poster (see figure’s top image) exhorted, “Sons or daughters, let’s have two children and raise them well.” In 1981, the government, buoyed by its success up to that point, set a target of a two-child, “replacement” level fertility by 1988 with a program of economic incentives. There was even some mention of a one-child family: “Even two children per family are too many for our crowded country” (see bottom image).2 While such a saying may have seemed at least somewhat extreme at the time, it proved to be surprisingly prophetic. The two-child target was met remarkably quickly: The TFR was down to 1.74 by 1984.

    South Korean Government Posters Promoted Smaller Families in the 1970s and 1980s

    Top image from 1974, bottom image from the 1980s. Source: South Korean government.

    Low Fertility, Aging Population, and Pronatalist Policies

    Despite the below-replacement TFR, no changes were made in South Korea’s family planning program. Childbearing was almost universal, population continued to grow due to a still youthful age structure, and concerns about the effects of a large population on the country remained. But in 2002, the National Pension Institute reported that the pension fund would soon be wiped out because of a decline in the working age population vis-à-vis the number of retirees. The government also realized that the number of women of childbearing age was declining and that the trend would only accelerate. In addition, the TFR continued to fall below the two-child level. By 2005, the TFR reached a historic global low of 1.08, but it had been well below two children for over 20 years by that point.

    In 2005, an advisory committee to South Korea’s president was formed and a law passed to provide the basic legal framework for a new pronatalist policy. This was similar to the approach taken by two other low-fertility countries, Germany and Japan. The Saero-Maji (“new beginning”) Plan for the 2006-2010 period included provisions to provide a more favorable environment for childbearing. The plan had a long list of measures, including tax incentives, priority for the purchase of a new apartment, support for child care including a 30 percent increase in facilities, childcare facilities at work, support for education, and assistance to infertile couples. In June 2006, the government announced the Vision 2020 Plan to raise fertility and prepare for a society with extreme aging. In terms of the TFR, the goal is to raise fertility to 1.6 children per woman (the average for OECD countries) by 2020, a fairly modest rise from the current 1.2 and still well beneath the replacement level.

    स्रोत : www.prb.org

    Population Policies in Developing Countries on JSTOR

    Dudley Kirk, Dorothy Nortman, Population Policies in Developing Countries, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 15, No. 2, Part 1 (Jan., 1967), pp. 129-142


    Dudley Kirk and Dorothy Nortman

    Economic Development and Cultural Change

    , pp. 129-142 (14 pages)

    Published By: The University of Chicago Press


    Current issues are now on the Chicago Journals website. Read the latest issue.Economic Development and Cultural Change (EDCC) publishes studies that use modern theoretical and empirical approaches to examine both the determinants and the effects of various dimensions of economic development and cultural change. EDCC’s focus is on empirical papers with analytic underpinnings, concentrating on micro-level evidence, that use appropriate data to test theoretical models and explore policy impacts related to economic development.

    Since its origins in 1890 as one of the three main divisions of the University of Chicago, The University of Chicago Press has embraced as its mission the obligation to disseminate scholarship of the highest standard and to publish serious works that promote education, foster public understanding, and enrich cultural life. Today, the Journals Division publishes more than 70 journals and hardcover serials, in a wide range of academic disciplines, including the social sciences, the humanities, education, the biological and medical sciences, and the physical sciences.

    This item is part of a JSTOR Collection.

    For terms and use, please refer to our

    Economic Development and Cultural Change © 1967 The University of Chicago Press

    स्रोत : www.jstor.org

    Population Control Policies and Fertility Convergence

    Population Control Policies and Fertility Convergence by Tiloka de Silva and Silvana Tenreyro. Published in volume 31, issue 4, pages 205-28 of Journal of Economic Perspectives, Fall 2017, Abstract: Rapid population growth in developing countries in the middle of the 20th century led to fears of a p...

    Population Control Policies and Fertility Convergence

    Population Control Policies and Fertility Convergence

    Tiloka de Silva Silvana Tenreyro


    VOL. 31, NO. 4, FALL 2017

    (pp. 205-28)

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    Rapid population growth in developing countries in the middle of the 20th century led to fears of a population explosion and motivated the inception of what effectively became a global population-control program. The initiative, propelled in its beginnings by intellectual elites in the United States, Sweden, and some developing countries, mobilized resources to enact policies aimed at reducing fertility by widening contraception provision and changing family-size norms. In the following five decades, fertility rates fell dramatically, with a majority of countries converging to a fertility rate just above two children per woman, despite large cross-country differences in economic variables such as GDP per capita, education levels, urbanization, and female labor force participation. The fast decline in fertility rates in developing economies stands in sharp contrast with the gradual decline experienced earlier by more mature economies. In this paper, we argue that population-control policies likely played a central role in the global decline in fertility rates in recent decades and can explain some patterns of that fertility decline that are not well accounted for by other socioeconomic factors.


    de Silva, Tiloka, and Silvana Tenreyro. 2017. "Population Control Policies and Fertility Convergence." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31 (4): 205-28.

    DOI: 10.1257/jep.31.4.205

    Additional Materials

    Data Set (998.08 KB)

    Online Appendix (440.58 KB)

    Author Disclosure Statement(s) (154.25 KB)

    JEL Classification

    J11 Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and ForecastsJ13 Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; YouthJ18 Demographic Economics: Public PolicyO15 Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; MigrationZ13 Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

    स्रोत : www.aeaweb.org

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