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No. of first-time brides in 40s outstrips those in 20s

March 20, 2023 - 14:56 By Park Jun-hee

As a growing number of South Korean women are tying the knot in their early 40s, the number of middle-aged first-time brides has outstripped brides in their 20s for two consecutive years, government data showed Monday.

According to data from Statistics Korea, there were 10,949 marriages among women aged between 40 to 44 last year, outpacing the 10,113 marriages by women aged between 20 to 24.

The number of early 40-something first-time brides surpassed brides in their early 20s for the first time in 2021 since the agency began compiling data in 1990. The number of brides in their early 40s stood at 10,412 in 2021, outnumbering the 9,985 marriages of early 20-something women.

Amid changing social norms and perceptions of marriage, the country has consistently seen weddings on the wane overall. The number of couples tying the knot sank to 191,690 in 2021, which is half of the 388,960 marriages recorded in 1997.

The number of first-time marriages for women in their early 20s dropped from 136,918 to 10,133, down 93 percent compared to 25 years ago, as younger Koreans were slower to establish their own families. Meanwhile, brides in their early 40s increased from 7,322 to 10,949 in the same period, showing that marriage is getting a generational face lift.

The statistics agency assessed that demographic transition is the main reason, citing the decline in the population of women in their early 20s.

Based on the average registered female resident population over the course of the year, women in their early 20s stood at 1.45 million in 2022, down 29.2 percent from 2.04 million in 1997, while the number of women in their early 40s was 1.95 million, up 16.3 percent from 1997’s 1.68 million.

Taking more time to land a secure job or buy a home is also cited as a reason for the rising marriage age among Koreans compared with previous generations.

According to data by the agency released last year, 42.3 percent of women in their early 40s answered “yes” when asked if they think marriage is necessary, while it was only 35.1 percent and 29.1 for those in their early 20s and teens, respectively.

Separately, the number of 40-something and 20-something first-time grooms was 15,000 and 44,000, respectively, in 2021, according to the latest available data released by the agency in January.