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VOA慢速英语:韩国生育率逐年降低

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In South Korea, fewer women are having children.The high costs of housing and education make financial security a necessity.Social customs also dictate that a woman should be married before having a baby.

在韩国,越来越少的女性要孩子。住房和教育的高成本使经济保障成为必要。社会习俗也规定女人应该先结婚再生孩子。

Lim Eun-young, a 34-year-old public servant, says she is not financially ready to start a family.She and her boyfriend are not married.They have been dating for just a few months.But Lim is worried about getting older and how that might affect her chances for pregnancy.So, in November, she had doctors remove some of her eggs and freeze them for possible use later.

34岁的公务员林恩英说,她在经济上还没有准备好成家。她和她的男朋友还没有结婚,他们才交往了几个月。但他随着年龄的增长,可能会影响怀孕的机会。因此,在11月,她让医生取出了一些卵子冷冻起来,以备以后使用。

Lim was one of about 1,200 unmarried women who underwent the operation last year at CHA Medical Center.In 2019, the number of patients for the same treatment was about 600.CHA is South Koreas largest fertility business, accounting for about 30 percent of the market.

林是去年在CHA医院接受卵子冷冻术的1200多名未婚女性之一。2019年是600人。CHA是韩国最大的生育企业,约占30%的市场份额。

"Its a big relief and it gives me peace of mind to know that I have healthy eggs frozen right here," she said.

她说:“想到在这里冷冻了健康的卵子,我松了一口气,倍感安心。”

Freezing eggs to gain reproductive time is an option increasingly explored by women worldwide.And, South Korea has one of the worlds lowest fertility rates.The average number of children born to a woman over her reproductive life in South Korea was just 0.81 last year.That compares with an average rate of 1.59 among developed countries in 2020.The countries are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD.

冷冻卵子以延长生育时间是世界各地女性越来越多人去尝试的一种选择。而且,韩国是世界上生育率最低的国家之一。去年,韩国女性在整个生育周期内平均生育子女的数量仅为0.81个。相比之下,发达国家2020年的平均生育率为1.59。这些国家都是经济合作与发展组织(OECD)的成员。

The South Korean government provides special assistance to families with children.The government budgeted $37 billion last year for policies aimed at increasing the countrys birth rate.

韩国政府为有孩子的家庭提供特殊援助。政府去年拨出370亿美元预算用于提高国家出生率的政策。

The low birth rate is blamed largely on South Koreas highly competitive and costly education system.Many children are pushed into high pressure schools and private lessons from a young age.

韩国的低出生率在很大程度上被归咎于高竞争力和昂贵的教育体系。许多孩子在很小的时候就被迫进入压力很大的学校和私教课程。

"We hear from married couples and watch reality TV shows about how expensive it is to raise kids in terms of education costs and everything,and all these worries translate to fewer marriages and babies," said Lim.

林说:“我们从已婚夫妇那里了解到一些信息,从电视真人秀节目里也看到了抚养孩子的教育费用和其他一切费用是多么昂贵,所有这些担忧都导致了婚姻和孩子的减少。”

Housing costs have also shot up.An average apartment in Seoul, for example, costs an estimated 19 years of South Koreas median yearly household earnings, up from 11 years in 2017.

住房成本也大幅上涨。例如,首尔一套普通公寓的成本估计要花费19年韩国家庭年收入中间数,高于2017年的11年。

Cho So-Young, a 32-year-old nurse at CHA who plans to freeze her eggs this coming July,is also hoping to get in a better financial position before having a child.

计划在今年7月冷冻卵子的CHA医院护士赵小英(32岁)也希望在生孩子之前经济状况能有所改善。

"If I get married now and give birth, I cant give my baby the kind of environment I had when I grew up...I want better housing, a better neighborhood and better food to eat," she said.

“如果我现在结婚生子,我就不能给我的孩子提供我长大时的那种环境……我想要更好的住房,一个更好的社区,和更好的食物,”她说。

But even when finances are less of a consideration, being married is seen as required before having children in South Korea.Just two percent of births in South Korea are to unmarried parents, compared to an average of 41 percent for OECD countries.

但在韩国,即使经济因素不那么重要,结婚也被视为生孩子之前的必要条件。在韩国,只有2%的新生儿是未婚父母生的,而经合组织国家的平均比例为41%。

In fact, only married women in South Korea are permitted to receive a medical fertilization process.Single women are barred under the law.

事实上,在韩国,只有已婚女性才被允许接受医学受精。根据法律,单身女性是被禁止的。

Sayuri Fujita, a Japanese celebrity based in South Korea, recently brought the issue to light.The unmarried star had to go back to Japan when she decided to get pregnant without a partner.

居住在韩国的日本名人藤田小百合最近曝光了这个问题。当她决定在没有伴侣的情况下怀孕时,这位未婚女星不得不回到日本。

That needs to change, argues Jung Jae-hoon, a professor of social issues at Seoul Womens University.She said marriages in South Korea dropped to a record low of 192,500 last year.That is down around 40 percent from ten years ago.Even when looking at marriage levels in 2019 to discount the effect of the pandemic, the drop is still a huge 27 percent.

首尔女子大学社会问题教授郑在勋认为,这种情况需要改变。她说,去年韩国的结婚率降至创纪录的19.25万。这比十年前下降了大约40%。即使不考虑疫情的影响,看看2019年的婚姻水平,降幅仍然高达27%。

"The least the government can do is to not get in the way of those out there who are willing" to pay the costs of having a baby, he said.

他说:“至少政府能做的是不要妨碍那些愿意支付生孩子费用的人。”

Even more worrying is the sharp drop in South Koreans willingness to have children at all.

更令人担忧的是,韩国人的生育意愿急剧下降。

A study in 2020 found that 52 percent of South Koreans in their 20s do not plan to have children when they get married.That is a massive jump from 29 percent in 2015.South Koreas gender and family ministry carried out the study.

2020年的一项研究发现,在20多岁的韩国人中,有52%的人在结婚时不打算生孩子。相比2015年的29%,这是一个巨大的飞跃。韩国性别与家庭部开展了这项研究。

Im Ashley Thompson. And Im Caty Weaver.

阿什利·汤普森和凯蒂·韦弗联合报道。

In South Korea, fewer women are having children. The high costs of housing and education make financial security a necessity. Social customs also dictate that a woman should be married before having a baby.

Lim Eun-young, a 34-year-old public servant, says she is not financially ready to start a family. She and her boyfriend are not married. They have been dating for just a few months. But Lim is worried about getting older and how that might affect her chances for pregnancy. So, in November, she had doctors remove some of her eggs and freeze them for possible use later.

Lim was one of about 1,200 unmarried women who underwent the operation last year at CHA Medical Center. In 2019, the number of patients for the same treatment was about 600. CHA is South Korea's largest fertility business, accounting for about 30 percent of the market.

"It's a big relief and it gives me peace of mind to know that I have healthy eggs frozen right here," she said.

Freezing eggs to gain reproductive time is an option increasingly explored by women worldwide. And, South Korea has one of the world's lowest fertility rates. The average number of children born to a woman over her reproductive life in South Korea was just 0.81 last year. That compares with an average rate of 1.59 among developed countries in 2020. The countries are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD.

The South Korean government provides special assistance to families with children. The government budgeted $37 billion last year for policies aimed at increasing the country's birth rate.

The low birth rate is blamed largely on South Korea's highly competitive and costly education system. Many children are pushed into high pressure schools and private lessons from a young age.

"We hear from married couples and watch reality TV shows about how expensive it is to raise kids in terms of education costs and everything, and all these worries translate to fewer marriages and babies," said Lim.

Housing costs have also shot up. An average apartment in Seoul, for example, costs an estimated 19 years of South Korea's median yearly household earnings, up from 11 years in 2017.

Cho So-Young, a 32-year-old nurse at CHA who plans to freeze her eggs this coming July, is also hoping to get in a better financial position before having a child.

"If I get married now and give birth, I can't give my baby the kind of environment I had when I grew up...I want better housing, a better neighborhood and better food to eat," she said.

But even when finances are less of a consideration, being married is seen as required before having children in South Korea. Just two percent of births in South Korea are to unmarried parents, compared to an average of 41 percent for OECD countries.

In fact, only married women in South Korea are permitted to receive a medical fertilization process. Single women are barred under the law.

Sayuri Fujita, a Japanese celebrity based in South Korea, recently brought the issue to light. The unmarried star had to go back to Japan when she decided to get pregnant without a partner.

That needs to change, argues Jung Jae-hoon, a professor of social issues at Seoul Women's University. She said marriages in South Korea dropped to a record low of 192,500 last year. That is down around 40 percent from ten years ago. Even when looking at marriage levels in 2019 to discount the effect of the pandemic, the drop is still a huge 27 percent.

"The least the government can do is to not get in the way of those out there who are willing" to pay the costs of having a baby, he said.

Even more worrying is the sharp drop in South Koreans' willingness to have children at all.

A study in 2020 found that 52 percent of South Koreans in their 20s do not plan to have children when they get married. That is a massive jump from 29 percent in 2015. South Korea's gender and family ministry carried out the study.

I'm Ashley Thompson. And I'm Caty Weaver.

Reuters reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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Words in This Story

relief - n. removal or easing of something painful or troubling

option - n. a choice made or available

expensive - adj. costly; high in price

translate - v. to change from one form to another

median - n. a value in a series arranged from smallest to largest below and above which there are an equal number of values or which is the average of the two middle values if there is no one middle value

prerequisite - n. something that is needed before an action can progress


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