Busan Hosts the 27th International Population Conference

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.

© Ginaellen | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
© Ginaellen | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

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

View the entire conference program list and list of research abstracts to learn more!

Follow IUSSP Busan and IUSSP on Twitter to find out more about the results and policy recommendations from this conference.

Featured image by author.

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Category: Politics
Tagged with: fertility rates    gender roles    International Population Conference    IUSSP    Korea    Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women & Families    low birth rates    Margaret Sanger    South Korea    World Population Conference

Liz Fortier

Liz earned a Master’s of Public Health degree from New York University in 2012, during which she researched harm reduction measures for intravenous drug users, and worked for a diabetes prevention research study in East Harlem. Liz traveled to Mexico and South Africa with NYU to understand the approaches taken toward improving community health in those countries. Liz has consistently been invested in the health of marginalized populations and improving access to health care for those living in poverty. As a way to entrench herself in one of the world’s most impoverished cities, Liz volunteered at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. Liz spent 2013 in South Korea teaching English and investigating gender issues there. She is eager to share what she has learned about health and poverty and how those issues relate to gender equity. Liz lives in Brooklyn, New York. Be inspired to take action toward global gender equity! Follow Liz on Twitter @LizAFort

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