Children's products are displayed at a department store in southern Seoul, in this file photo taken Feb. 23, 2023. (Yonhap)

SEOUL – The number of babies born in South Korea dipped to yet another fresh low in January, data showed Wednesday, reflecting the dire population crisis in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Just 23,179 babies were born in January this year, sinking 6 percent from a year earlier, according to data from Statistics Korea.

It marked the lowest number for January since the statistics agency started compiling monthly data in 1981.

The number of babies born in South Korea has been falling on-year for 86 consecutive months.

The latest figure is another indicator that more people are delaying or giving up on having babies in the face of an economic slowdown and high home prices.

A total of 249,000 babies were born last year, falling 4.4 percent from the previous record low in 2021, the agency's data showed earlier.

The country's total fertility rate, the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, came to 0.78 in 2022, marking the lowest since 1970, when it was 4.53.

It was much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 which would keep South Korea's population stable at 51.5 million.

South Korea continued to report more deaths than births due to its aging population in January.

The number of deaths came to 32,703 for the month, soaring 9.6 percent from a year earlier to set a fresh high.

The country saw its deaths outpace births for the first time in 2020.

The data, however, showed that the number of marriages soared 21.5 percent on-year to 17,926, apparently as couples who have delayed their weddings tied the knot after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Divorces edged down 1.4 percent on-year to 7,251 in the month. (Yonhap)