Posted August. 06, 2008 06:44,
The number of boys for every 100 girls reached 106.1 last year, nearing the natural sex birth range of 100:103-107 for the first time in 25 years.
The number of babies born last year also grew 45,000 from 2006 for the second straight year of rise, the National Statistical Office said yesterday in a report.
The imbalance in the sex ratio at birth began aggravating in the mid-1980s and the ratio reached 116.5 in 1990. The ratio for a third and fourth child temporarily topped 200 in the 1990s.
As the balance in gender waned, boys began to outnumber girls at elementary schools in the late 1990s. As abortion of female fetuses developed into a problem, a crackdown was conducted on obstetricians for telling parents the sex of their unborn babies.
The sex balance started recovering from the mid-1990s, however, recording 110.2 in 2000 and 107.7 in 2005. Last year saw the ratio near the natural level.
The rising social status of women has weakened the preference for boys, and the number of parents who have a third or fourth child in hopes of having a son has also dropped, said Park Gyeong-ae, a demographics statistician. But the gender ratio for a third child is relatively high.
The number of babies born last year was 497,000, up from 452,000 in 2006. The total fertility rate, or the number of children a woman is expected to give birth to over her lifetime, rose to 1.26 last year, up from 0.13 in 2006.
After reaching a record low 1.08 in 2006, the rate has risen for two years in a row.
The birth rate is dropping again this year, however. The number of babies born from March to May has dropped 5,500 from the same period last year.
The nations birth rate temporarily increased as parents who avoided having children due to financial difficulty in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis belatedly had kids, said an official at the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry.
Experts say the birth rate will further drop as the number of women in their reproductive period is decreasing.
By age, the fertility rate of those in their 30s was the highest. The average child-bearing age was 30.6, a 2.3-year rise from a decade ago.
By region, 50.8 percent of newborns were delivered in the Seoul metropolitan area, with 127, 000 in Suwon and 104,000 in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.
The number of babies born to single mothers slightly rose to 1.6 percent of all newborns, up from 0.9 percent in 2000.
Due to infertility treatment, the ratio of twins also rose.