Friendly Economic Reporter is here. Isn't the problem of low birth rates in Korea very serious and attracting a lot of attention these days? I'm very interested in how to have more children, but is there a study that has focused on the economic power of men in our country?

Yes. Even if they make good money, men are getting married later than before.

This is one of the factors that has led to the drastic decline in the birth rate in recent years. Then, when you're over 35, the mood changes.

Men with relatively high economic power marry and have children from this point onwards, and the polarization between marriage and childbearing based on relative economic power is becoming more and more evident in our society.

Now, marriage doesn't necessarily mean having children, but for men, marriage is still meaningful as an indicator of the intention to have children soon.

Researchers at the Korea Labour Research Institute tracked the changes over the past 10 years, from 2007-9 to 2017-19.

After the corona period, I deliberately excluded it. Then we saw a noticeable drop in the marriage rate for men in their late 20s. It's similar in your early 30s.

Divide the income levels of men into 10 levels, and the 10 levels on the right side of this table are higher incomes.

The blue line is from the 2000s and the red line is from the 2010s. The tendency for higher-income men to marry earlier and more is still there.

But if you look at the difference from 10 years ago, the gap between the high-income bracket is much larger than the low-income one.

This means that young men with higher incomes are avoiding early marriage more than ever before.


Usually, when it comes to fertility rates, most of the analysis has focused on women, but it seems a bit unusual that it focuses on men. But when men pass the age of 35, the difference in income becomes more pronounced?

Beyond the
age of 35, men with higher incomes actually marry almost as much as they used to.

But it's striking that low- to middle-income men are decidedly marrying less than they did a decade ago.

In the late 2000s, 97 percent of men by age 50 were married or at least married.

By 2019, 88% of 50-year-olds have ever been married.

But men in the top four income brackets on the 10 income brackets don't actually have much of a difference in marriage rates from what they were a decade ago, as you can see.

However, the proportion of low-income men marrying has dropped significantly, and even the median income does not exceed 90 percent of marriages.

If you look at the gap in their early 40s, when the gap starts to widen, nearly half of the men with the lowest income are now single, compared to 3 out of 4 men with the lowest income 14 years ago.

Even the 60 percent of men in the middle of our society, who are just or slightly above the median income level, are married significantly less than they were 14 years ago.

Unless you're in the top 40% of
people who make a lot of money, the marriage rate seems to be dropping dramatically, so why has this changed?

I think this mood has been growing
in recent years.

If you look at how much you earn in relative terms and how much other people earn rather than how much you earn in absolute terms, and you see a growing disparity, then there is definitely an atmosphere of less marriage.

I looked at this between 2016 and 2020. There hasn't been much change in the male employment rate during this period. Real incomes, which reflect prices, have increased.

And the wage gap among men has actually narrowed slightly. But when we looked at it by region, we found that the bigger the wage gap between men, the more unmarried men were.

Especially at the age of 35, even if there were two men with the same income, whether or not they were earning higher wages in their area was more important than the absolute amount.

The feeling of being relatively high means that marriage is increasing. Recent studies put it this way:

As the wage gap between men widens, the relatively scarce high-income men spend more time choosing partners.

Women also know that the wage gap between men increases over time, so they are less likely to decide to marry earlier.

Another thing that stood out was that where there was a large wage gap between women, the marriage rate for men over the age of 35 tended to go up.

Why wouldn't you like to do this? The researchers found that the large wage gap between women means that more women are participating in the labor market.

In other words, if you put off getting married, and then you start to get over the age of 35, you will see that male high-income earners marry women who work in favor of double income, while men with relatively low wages do not or will not marry until the end.

After all, efforts to close the wage gap also contribute greatly to higher marriage rates.

We need to create a high-quality working environment. This is also important.