The 27th International Population Conference of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) took place this weekend in Busan, South Korea. The focus of the conference was to seek global solutions to low birth rates and aging populations. Over 2,500 researchers from 140 countries, including 500 from Korea, presented their theses and policy recommendations on global population issues.
The IUSSP holds an International Population Conference every four years, and this year was the first time it was held in Korea.
Busan was chosen as host partly because Korea has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates. At the end of 2012, the fertility rate in Korea was 1.3 children per woman of childbearing age. The fertility rate in 2009 in Busan was 0.94. There was a fertility rate improvement made in Busan over the past few years that was discussed at the conference.
The IUSSP was originally established by the World Population Conference, a conference developed by public health heroine and women’s rights advocate, Margaret Sanger, and was held in 1927 in Geneva. The conference was the first to bring together international experts to discuss population, food supply, fertility, migration, and health. The first World Population Conference succeeded in sparking an interest and research on population issues and established the IUSSP which has continued the important work.
One topical paper presented at this year’s conference discussed fertility in South Korea and how gender equity plays a role in improving fertility rates in the country. Soo-Yeon Yoon of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presented her paper, “Why is it difficult to achieve the ideal number of children? Answers in the case of South Korea”.
Her paper examined individual experiences of gender equity to explain low fertility rates. She incorporated “individual lived experience, attitudes associated with gender roles, and women’s household decision making ability” into her research.
She chose to study this issue in South Korea specifically because “both institutional forces of lowest-low fertility (meaning institution-level forces influence families to have few children) and massive social and economic changes come into play in shaping women’s childbearing behavior” in the country.
Soo-Yeon Yoon’s paper is based on the Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women & Families from 2007 to 2010. Her findings suggest that individual-level gender equity may play a role in influencing how many children a women will want to have and her family planning decision-making power in South Korea. Therefore, women who feel that they have more decision-making power within their homes will make their own choice about the number of children they have rather than be influenced by outside institutional forces. If gender equity is improved, perhaps women will choose to have more children in South Korea.
This study suggests that the overall problem of gender inequity in South Korea could be an influential factor in the low birth rates in the country, and one more reason why the gender gap needs to get much smaller in South Korea.
The following themes are other highlights of the conference that specifically relate to women:
Adolescent Girls and Migration in the Developing World
Individual, Familial and Contextual Factors Influencing Fertility
Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health among Adolescents
Prospects of Fertility Recovery in Low Fertility Societies
Evaluation of Maternal and Child Health Policies, Programs and Services
Contraceptive Use Dynamics in Developing Countries
Women in Aging Societies
Fertility and HIV
Featured image by author.