The number of babies born in South Korea plunged in October, the lowest tally since 1981, high- lighting the country’s bleak demographic situation with the chronically low birth rate, data showed on Wednesday.

A total of 20,736 babies were born in the country in October, down 5.2 per cent from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.

The October figure was also down from 21,920 new-borns recorded in September. In the first 10 months of 2021, 224,216 babies were born in the country, down 3.6 percent from the previous year. South Korea is grappling with a chronic decline in child births as many young people delay and give up on getting married or having babies amid a prolonged economic slowdown and high housing prices.

South Korea’s total fertility rate the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime-hit a record low of 0.84 last year.

It marked the third straight year that the rate was below 1 percent.

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The number of deaths, meanwhile, gained for the eighth consecutive month in October amid rapid population aging.

The number of deaths came to 27,783 in the month, up 4.9 percent from a year earlier.

In the January-October period, the number of deaths rose 2 per cent on year to 257,466. Accordingly, the country’s population decreased by 7,046 in October, marking the 24th straight month of decline. In the first 10 months of the year, the country reported a natural population fall of 33,250. South Korea posted the first natural decline in population in 2020 as the number of deaths outpaced that of new born.

Policymakers have warned the country may face an “age earthquake” in 2030 40, an earthquake-like demographic shock from a fall in population and aging of the population, if it does not address demographic challenges in a timely manner.

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