Amid the rapid breakup of nuclear families, one or two-member households will emerge as the standard family structure in Korea over the next two decades, officials and analysts said Monday.
According to a report by Statistics Korea, households consisting of one or two members will increase sharply and account for 68.3 percent of the total families in 2035.
This strikes a sharp contrast with the current major family type consisting of two spouses and their children, the so-called nuclear family which accounts for more than a third of the total, the report said.
The traditional family structure is a support system involving two married individuals who provide care and stability for their biological offspring. However, this two-parent household has become less prevalent and alternative family forms are becoming more common.
The change has been rapid.
In 1990, one or two-member households accounted for only 22.8 percent of the total, a separate report by Statics Korea said. The figure, however, jumped to 48.2 percent in 2010.
"The change in the basic family unit is the result of more people getting divorced, death of a spouse among senior citizens, the fast-aging population, and a trend of avoiding giving birth," the state agency said.
Among the various reasons, the change in the basic family unit is most attributable to people not getting married in the first place, a separate report by the Korea Development Institute (KDI) said.
Of the increase of 1.91 million single-member households over the past decade, 46.2 percent, or 886,000, were due to people staying unmarried, the KDI said.
The surge in the single population is in line with the country's overall trend of marrying later in life or avoiding it altogether, it said.
The overall heightening of women's status in the society is likely attributable to changes in the perception of marriage, which has led to the increase in the single population as well as more elderly couples choosing to divorce, the KDI noted.
Many European countries and Japan have already witnessed the growing number of people living alone, the KDI said.
"The rise of single households is the third-wave of the family revolution, following nuclear families and extended families," Park Seon-yung of the KDI said.
"We have to accept the reality that a different family type is becoming more common. We need to come up with new policy measures," Park said, adding that the change in the country is too rapid compared to other countries. (Yonhap)