By Kim Yang-joong, medical correspondent
Last year, the total fertility rate (TFR) in South Korea is believed to have increased to 1.3, giving rise to hopes that the country will emerge from the ranks of countries with low birth rates for the first time in 11 years. The total fertility rate represents the number of children born during the period when a woman is capable of giving birth (15 to 49 years of age)
The prediction is based on data from a Jan. 25 meeting of the Presidential Committee on Low Birth Rate and an Aging Society. The data, which combined the number of babies born through November 2012 with the average of babies born in December over the past three years, indicates that the birth rate for 2012 was around 1.3 children.
The number of babies born from January to November of 2012 was 450,600, which is 13,300 more than the 437,300 born during the same period of 2011. The precise TFR figures will be announced in August 2013.
The South Korean TFR, which stood at 1.3 in 2001, dropped to a low point of 1.08 in 2005 before bouncing back to 1.24 in 2011. If last year’s birth rate coincides with the predicted figures, it will mean that Korea has reached 1.3 babies, the cut-off line for an extremely low birth rate, only seven years after bottoming out. Compared with the length of time that an extremely low birth rate has persisted in other major countries, Korea has taken longer than Germany (4 years) but was faster than Greece (9 years) and Italy (11 years).
“Since the implementation of the basic laws concerning the low birthrate and aging society in 2005, we have devised plans on two occasions as part of our efforts to reduce the expenses incurred in marriage, childbirth, and childcare,” the committee said. “This result is the fruit of our efforts.”
However, the birthrate in South Korea remains low compared to fully developed countries. “Various European countries that experienced a low birth rate devised policies to overcome it, and as a result they are currently maintaining a level of 1.8 to 1.9 babies,” said a representative for the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
“Korea must also convert to a new population management paradigm that puts the focus on intergenerational equality and sustainability.”
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