South Korea: Number of newborns falls for first time in three years
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19 August 2009
By Lee Hyo-sik, Korea Times
The number of babies born in the nation fell for the first time in three years in 2008, with more couples delaying childbirths on increasing financial difficulties amid the tight job market. Rising costs associated with childcare are also said to have discouraged many women here from having babies, making Korea the most rapidly aging nation in the world.
The crude birthrate, which indicates the number of children born per 1,000 people, stood at 9.4, down from 10 in 2007. Meanwhile, the birthrate, or the average number of babies expected per woman aged 15-49, decreased to 1.19 from 1.25 over the one year period. In 2005, the country recorded its lowest rate of 1.08. "The decline was largely attributed to the shrinking female population and the base effect that childbirths increased steeply in 2007. We are now in better shape than in 2005, but Korea still has a far lower birthrate than other advanced countries. In 2006, American women had an average of 2.1 infants, followed by 1.96 in France, 1.84 in Britain and 1.34 in Japan. The numbers continue to head upward in such countries," an NSO official said.
On average, the mothers of newborns here were 30.8 years old, up from 30.6 in 2007. Women had their first child at the average age of 29.6 in 2008, with their second children being born at 31.7.
Women in their early 30s were the greatest contributors in expanding the number of childbirths, outpacing those in their late 20s for the fourth year in a row. The number of births by women aged 30-34 totaled 199,000 last year, down 7,000 from a year earlier. That of women aged 25 to 29 fell by 18,000, to 169,000 during the same period.
The NSO official said women are getting married and giving a birth at an increasingly older age. "A growing number of Korean women cannot have a baby even though they want to because they are too old. Unless they marry at an early age, the nation's birthrates will continue to head downward."
The statistical office said the number of male newborns per 100 female newborns increased to 106.4 from 106.2 the previous year, indicating more Korean couples gave birth to baby boys.
About 51.3 percent of babies were born in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. Gyeonggi Province had the largest number of newborns at 119,400, followed by Seoul with 94,700 and South Gyeongsang Province with 31,500.