(CNN)South Korea recorded more deaths than births in 2020 for the first time ever, prompting calls for action to revive the country's falling fertility rate.
For years, South Korea has struggled with a growing demographic crisis. The country's fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime -- has repeatedly hit record lows, and ranks near the bottom of the lowest fertility rates in the world. Meanwhile, South Korea's population continues to age, sending the country into a demographic decline.
But last year's census data, released by the Ministry of Interior and Safety on Monday, appears even more alarming.
There were only 275,815 births, a record low -- compared to 307,764 deaths, a 3.1% increase in fatalities from the previous year. This is the first time South Korea has hit the "population death cross," when the number of deaths surpasses births, the ministry said in a news release -- and the first time the total population has shrunk.
The population continues to age rapidly, the census showed: 32.7% of people are in their 40s and 50s, and nearly a quarter are over the age of 60.