Report: Rising number of older moms having babies

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Report: Rising number of older moms having babies

Kim Young-sook, a 60-year-old housewife in Yongin City, Gyeonggi, was already raising a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son in 1983, when she was 33 years old - exactly the age her daughter is now.

But Kim’s daughter, who gave only her last name, Choi, has no child and hasn’t even married yet, though she will finally tie the knot in June.

That means Choi will be at least 34 years old by the time she has her first child.

It’s a situation that likely would have caused her family great concern and hand-wringing decades ago, when she would have been considered an old maid.

“Heck, my parents would have considered me a real disaster back then had I been unmarried at 33 and had no child,” said Kim, who married at the age of 26 in 1976.

“But times have changed. Many girls are getting married late, having their first child in their 30s, and they seem to be doing just fine,” she said.

Kim will not be the only mother in Korea to see her daughter getting married in her 30s, and rearing children at an age that, when their mothers were young, would have been considered lamentable.

The latest data from the state-run Statistics Korea has confirmed the changed landscape.

The average age of women giving birth in Korea has constantly inched up in recent years, from 27.8 in 1994 to 29 in 2000 and finally to 31 as of last year.

The data, released yesterday, also showed that women in their 20s - traditionally viewed as the prime age in which to give birth - are now waiting to have babies until they are in their 30s.

Women in their 20s accounted for 67.5 percent of all those who gave birth across the country in 1999, more than twice the 30 percent who then had children in their 30s.

But as young women became increasingly busy earning higher degrees, getting jobs and climbing the corporate ladder in their 20s, the trend reversed.

In 2005, women giving birth in their 30s outnumbered the younger ones for the first time.

Women in their 30s accounted for 50.1 percent of the total in 2005, followed by 47.9 percent of 20-something moms.

And the gap has only widened since then, reaching 57.1 percent versus 40.7 percent as of last year.

In 1999, women between 30 and 34 accounted for only 25.5 percent of births, compared to 54 percent between 25 and 29.

In 2007, the former group accounted for 41.8 percent of births, while the latter had only 38 percent.

Last year, 43.4 percent of births were to women between 30 and 34, while 35.2 percent of babies were born to slightly younger women.


By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]
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