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South Korea has the world’s lowest fertility rate. Seoul’s mayor thinks he has a solution: a city-sponsored dating event



South Korea has the world’s lowest fertility rate, at just 0.78 births per woman as of 2022. It’s likely to get even worse, with Statistics Korea, the country’s official statistics bureau, forecasting a rate of just 0.72 for 2023. That would be three times lower than the often-accepted replacement rate of 2.1, the number of births needed to keep a population at a stable level.

It’s even worse in Seoul, the nation’s capital, where the fertility rate is just 0.59. The city’s mayor has a solution: He wants the city’s government to play matchmaker to link people together.

In a Bloomberg TV interview aired on Friday, Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon said he first proposed the idea last year, but the scheme was postponed due to concerns that a dating event wasn’t an appropriate idea for public institutions. but Oh hasn’t given up. “I’m thinking about trying it again,” he said, continuing that some residents were disappointed that the matchmaking plan was on hold.

Other Korean city governments have tried blind dating events, such as the local government in Seongnam City, just south of Seoul, which arranged an event at a hotel for 100 South Korean men and women to meet.

South Korean officials are considering more than just matchmaking events to bolster the country’s rapidly-declining birth rate.

The government is increasing its incentives for families to have children. Since 2022, the government has paid 2 million Korean won ($1500) to parents for their first child, but starting this year, parents will get 3 million won ($2250) for their second child and thereafter. Parents will also receive a monthly payment of 1 million won monthly ($750) for the first 12 months and 500,000 won for the following 12 months. Parents with children younger than eight are also entitled to apply for a maximum of one year of parental leave.

Oh acknowledged that matchmaking would be a secondary role compared to other policies meant to encourage childrearing, including increases to parental leave and financial support for couples seeking egg freezing services or infertility treatments. “Seoul will mobilize all available policies,” Oh said on Bloomberg.

The Bank of Korea, in a recent report, suggested that easing population density in Seoul could help improve the country’s low birth rate. About half of Korea’s population lives in the Seoul metropolitan area.

South Korea’s government is the only one in Asia trying to reverse a trend of declining birth rates. Governments in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are all considering or have implemented new policies to encourage families to have children. Mainland China is also rolling back population control measures as new births in the country sink to record lows.

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