Baby births rise for 3 straight years in 2012: data

SEJONG, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- The number of babies born in South Korea increased for the third straight year in 2012 amid the government's continued efforts to raise the country's chronically low birth rate, data showed Monday.

According to the data by Statistics Korea, a total of 484,600 babies was born last year, up 13,300, or 2.8 percent, from a year earlier. This marked three straight years that childbirths have increased on a year-on-year basis.

The data showed that the total fertility rate, or the number of babies that a woman is projected to have during her lifetime, also grew to 1.297 from the previous year's 1.244. The rate has been on the rise since it dropped to a record low of 1.076 in 2005.

The increase comes as the government has been offering various incentives to encourage citizens to have more children. The chronically low birthrate and aging population are feared to hurt the economy by reducing the workforce and driving up welfare costs.

The report also underlined a growing trend among South Koreans to delay having babies.

The average age for women to have their first baby stood at 30.50, up 0.25 from a year earlier, the report showed.

The figure was the highest ever since 1993 when the statistics agency started to compile related data. The average age for a woman to have her first child at the time stood at 26.23.

The ratio of older women giving birth also continued to rise, with those aged 35 and older accounting for 18.7 percent of all women who had babies last year, the data showed.

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