Taiwan births hit nine-year high in Year of Dragon

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan said on Wednesday that the number of newborns reached a nine-year high of 234,599 last year during the auspicious Year of the Dragon.

The government had forecast 230,000 births for 2012 but a series of childcare incentives helped boost the island's birth rate, which has been among one of the world's lowest, said an interior ministry official.

Taiwan's birth rate had been falling continuously since 2000 - the last Year of the Dragon - amid growing concerns that a declining labour force could erode the economy.

It hit a record low in 2010, plunging close to the bottom of the global rankings with 166,886 newborns, as the average number of children Taiwanese women have fell to 0.89.

In general, every woman needs to give birth to 2.1 children on average, merely to prevent the population from shrinking.

The Year of the Dragon is considered the most auspicious year in the Chinese zodiac, usually causing a spike in births.

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