05/08/2007, 00.00
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South Koreans happy, birth rate rising after six years

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
National Statistical Office releases 2006 population data showing a surprising 3.3 jump. Fertility rates are also up.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The number of newborns in South Korea increased for the first time in six years in 2006, up 3.3 per cent from the previous year, this according to the National Statistical Office (NSO).

The country’s overall fertility rate—the average number of babies a woman aged 15-49 gives birth to during her lifetime—also increased, to 1.13 last year from 1.08 in 2005, the report said.

“We are expecting the birthrate to rise further this year,” officials at the NSO said.

The announcement led to expression of joy in the population; many South Koreans have been concerned about aging and population decline.

For sociologists, a lower birthrate reflects women’s greater role in the economy and their tendency to marry later in life.

To solve the problem, the South Korean government approved last June a "social pact" aimed at battling problems arising from Korea's falling birthrate and aging population.

The pact, which was reached after five months of discussion with religious, business and civic groups, includes more public childcare facilities (30 per cent more by 2010) and job creation for pregnant women.

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