Due to the decline in births, the first 6 new elementary school students in Seoul fell, “We must correct the failed low birth rate policy”

The number of public, public, and private elementary school students in Seoul decreased by more than 10% compared to 30 years ago
The number of elementary school students nationwide is expected to decrease to 30
The root cause is the failure of the low birth rate policy that fell into welfare populism

The number of elementary school students in Seoul has decreased by more than 1% in one year, falling to the 10 level for the first time this year. Naturally, the number of students per class and the total number of students are decreasing, so it is expected that each class will not be able to fill an average of 5 students. This trend is occurring nationwide, and the number of students entering elementary schools nationwide this year is expected to fall below 20 for the first time in history. While the issue of low birth rates is being discussed as the cause of the sharp decline in school enrollment, some are pointing out that a customized policy to solve structural problems is needed instead of a short-sighted low birth rate policy.

The number of elementary school students in Seoul falls to 5 for the first time

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education on the 3rd, the number of students enrolled in elementary schools in Seoul this year is 5 in national, public, and private schools, a decrease of 9,492% in one year after first reaching the 6 level last year. The number of elementary school students in Seoul has been steadily decreasing from 1 in 10.3 to 2019 in 7, 8,118 in 2020, and 7 in 1,356, but the decline has become even steeper recently. It’s a trend.

As the number of enrolled students decreases, the number of students per class and the total number of students are expected to naturally decrease. According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education’s elementary school placement plan for the 2023-2027 school years, the number of students per class is expected to decrease from 2022 in 21.4 to 2028 in 20.2. Additionally, the trend toward small schools with fewer than 240 students is accelerating. Based on public and private elementary schools in Seoul, 2022 (51%) are expected to be small schools in 9 and 2027 (85%) in 14 with less than 240 students.

The decline in elementary school enrollment is occurring not only in Seoul but across the country. This year, the number of children eligible for school enrollment is 41, and considering that the number of children actually entering school is usually around 3,056% of those eligible for school enrollment, the number is expected to drop to the 90 range in March. Compared to last year’s record of 3 elementary school students, the 30 mark will be broken in just one year.

If this trend continues, the number of elementary school students is likely to plummet to the 2026 level by 20. This is because the number of children born in 2026 who are scheduled to enter elementary school in 2019 is only 30. An official from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education predicted, “Last year, the total number of births based on resident registration was 2,676, an all-time low,” and predicted, “As the trend of low birth rates intensifies, the decline in the number of students is expected to continue.”

Kim Young-mi, Vice Chairperson of the Low Birth Rate and Aging Society Committee/Photo = Low Birth Rate and Aging Society Committee

Failed low birth rate policy deepens the ‘population cliff’

The root cause of the steep decline in the number of elementary school students nationwide is low birth rates. As of 2022, Korea’s total birth rate (the number of children expected to be born to a woman of childbearing age in her lifetime) was 1, the lowest level since statistics were first compiled. Since 0.78, when the number fell to less than 1, the downward trend has continued and the country has been at the bottom of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for several years.

Last year’s situation was not much different. The number of babies born in 2023 is about 23, the lowest number since compilation, and the total birth rate to be announced in February of this year is estimated to be between the late 5 and early 2 range. Furthermore, if the current low birth trend continues, the total birth rate is expected to fall to 0.6 in 0.7.

The government has implemented a low birth rate policy by investing approximately 15 trillion won in financial resources over the past 280 years, but ultimately failed to reverse the extremely low birth rate trend. In particular, the support measures introduced so far to improve childbirth conditions are being evaluated as falling into welfare populism and failing to sufficiently respond to the needs of the people. Kim Young-mi, Vice Chair of the Low Birth Rate and Aging Society Committee, said, “Since free childcare was implemented for all classes in 2013, childcare finances and infrastructure have continued to expand, and cash allowances to ease the burden of childcare costs have also expanded, but there is a need for additional resources depending on groups such as gender, class, and region of residence. “Policies that are far from birth policies have been poured out,” he said, pointing out, “In the future, a delicate customized policy approach that meets various needs is needed without being conscious of the votes of an expanded specific age group.”

The lack of a control tower to oversee the policy is also cited as a cause of policy failure. To solve structural problems, long-term, consistent and continuous policies must be pursued, but government ministries each pursued their own measures without coordination. Lee Sang-rim, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, said, “In the past, our government only approached our country’s low birth rate problem, which had several overlapping structural problems, as a unit project instead of approaching it as a national policy policy,” and added, “Korea’s representative population policy, ‘low birth rate and aging society.’ He pointed out, “The ‘basic plan’ is simply a list of about 220 individual projects, and it is difficult to solve structural problems with individual projects.”

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