Children later than sooner: South Korean ladies freeze eggs as child-rearing prices surge


SEOUL — In South Korea, fewer ladies are having youngsters and those that do are in no rush. The sky-high prices of housing and training make monetary safety a should. Social mores additionally dictate the have to be married.

Lim Eun-young, a 34-year-old public servant, says she isn’t prepared to begin a household because of the prices and as she solely started relationship her boyfriend a number of months in the past. However fearful that her organic clock is ticking, she had a few of her eggs frozen in November.

Ms. Lim was one among about 1,200 single single ladies who underwent the process final yr at CHA Medical Heart — a quantity that has doubled over two years. CHA is South Korea’s largest fertility clinic chain with about 30% of the IVF market.

“It’s a giant reduction and it provides me peace of thoughts to know that I’ve wholesome eggs frozen proper right here,” she stated.

Freezing eggs to purchase reproductive time is an choice more and more explored by ladies worldwide. However in South Korea, which has the doubtful distinction of getting one of many world’s lowest fertility charges, the dramatic soar in ladies utilizing CHA’s providers throws into sharp reduction the financial burdens and social constraints resulting in choices to delay and even forgo having youngsters.

The fertility price — the common variety of youngsters born to a girl over her reproductive life — in South Korea was simply 0.81 final yr. That compares with a mean price of 1.59 for OECD international locations in 2020.

That’s additionally regardless of huge sums spent by South Korean authorities on subsidies and perks for households with youngsters. The federal government budgeted 46.7 trillion received ($37 billion) final yr to fund insurance policies aimed toward tackling the nation’s low start price.

A lot of the blame for South Korean reticence to have youngsters is laid on a extremely aggressive and costly training system that makes cram colleges and personal tutoring a truth of life for most youngsters from a younger age.

“We hear from married {couples} and watch actuality TV exhibits about how costly it’s to boost youngsters when it comes to training prices and every part, and all these worries translate to fewer marriages and infants,” stated Ms. Lim.

Housing prices have additionally surged. A mean condo in Seoul, for example, prices an estimated 19 years of South Korea’s median annual family earnings, up from 11 years in 2017.

Cho So-Younger, a 32-year-old nurse at CHA who plans to freeze her eggs this coming July, can also be eager to get to a greater place financially earlier than having a baby.

“If I get married now and provides start, I can’t give my child the sort of setting I had after I grew up…I would like higher housing, a greater neighborhood and higher meals to eat,” she stated.

However even when funds are much less of a consideration, being married is seen as a prerequisite to having youngsters in South Korea. Simply 2% of births in South Korea happen out of wedlock in comparison with a mean of 41% for OECD international locations.

In reality, whereas single South Korean ladies are capable of freeze their eggs, they will’t legally proceed with a sperm donation and the implanting of an embryo except married — a problem thrust into the highlight by Sayuri Fujita, a Japanese movie star and single mom primarily based in South Korea who had to return to Japan for a sperm donation.

That should change, argues Jung Jae-hoon, a social welfare research professor at Seoul Ladies’s College, noting marriages in South Korea dropped to a file low of 192,500 final yr. That’s down round 40% from a decade earlier. Even when marriage ranges in 2019 to low cost the impact of the pandemic, the decline remains to be an enormous 27%.

“The least the federal government can do is to not get in the way in which of these on the market who’re keen to shoulder the monetary burden of getting a child,” he stated.

Much more worrying are the statistics exhibiting a pointy drop-off in willingness to have youngsters in any respect.

Some 52% of South Koreans of their 20s don’t plan to have youngsters once they get married, an enormous soar from 29% in 2015, based on a survey carried out in 2020 by the nation’s gender and household ministry. ($1 = 1,276 received) — Reuters


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