[EDITORIALS]Birth rate tied to economyIndications suggest that married couples are having fewer children. And it may be about money. According to a report from the National Statistical Office, the birth rate of first children dropped by 74,754 to 224,863 infants last year compared to 299,617 infants in 2000. The number of second children dropped even further, from 269,022 infants in 2000 to 167,867 babies in 2005, a drop of 101,155 newborns. The figures indicate that many families are settling for a single child. The low birth rate certainly isn’t surprising news, but is it cause for concern?
The average time taken for the first child to be born is also increasing. In 2005, 71.4 percent of married couples had their first child within two years of marriage, a considerable drop compared to 77.5 percent in 2000. The percentage of couples giving birth to their first children after their second year of marriage has increased by a similar margin. The trend of having an only child late in the marriage seems to be taking shape quickly.
The problem lies in the fact that the unwillingness to give birth is highly related to the economic burdens of having a child. The economy is sluggish and education costs are rising.
Recently released results by a research team headed by Professor Cho Yong-tae at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Health demonstrates that the unemployment rate and birth rate show a clear inverse proportion. It demonstrates the common knowledge that people are hesitant to give birth to children during a slow economic period with few jobs. The results, however, give hope that a stronger economy and better job market will naturally solve the low birth rates.
Japan, one of the countries with a low birth rate, provides circumstantial evidence. In the first half of this year, Japan showed an increase in births for the first time in six years and many believe the improved economy played a big part. The government’s measures to support birth and child care may have had minimal effect on reviving the nation’s birth rate. But bringing back the economy and increasing jobs is essential in order to get to the bottom of the problem.
The people must have financial resources at hand if they want to get married and have children.