March 07, 2014 08:23
The year 2010 was an auspicious year in the Chinese zodiac and this belief led to a baby boom, with 470,000 babies born compared to 444,000 in 2009.
But instead of bringing immediate wealth and good fortune, the boom in the Year of the White Tiger has so far only created intense competition for kindergarten places.
Children born in 2010 are starting kindergarten this year, and the competition for state-run facilities stood at 4.27:1. That means 10,591 kids are vying for just 2,479 openings.
One mother said, "I encountered the same problems when I tried to send my child to pre-kindergarten and I'm really worried about the competition for elementary school and university as well as jobs later on."
Children born in 2007, the Year of the Golden Pig, entered elementary school this year, creating a huge bottleneck in admissions. Admissions to elementary school rose from 69,331 last year to 73,947 this year.
The number of first-grade classes in public schools increased from 2,762 in 2013 to 2,955 this year, but not all schools were able to do that, leading to more crowded classrooms.
An Education Ministry officials said, "It's difficult to forecast when births will soar and it's not feasible to build more schools just to accommodate children born in a particular year."
Korea suffers a record-low birthrate, but the number of childbirths fluctuates wildly regardless of government efforts to get people to have more babies.
The Chinese zodiac consists of 12 animal signs. The years 2000, 2006 and 2012 were also auspicious and spawned rushes to have babies, but 2013 was the Year of the Black Snake, which is not a particularly favored sign and resulted in a declining birthrate.
This trend has become more pronounced among couples who prefer to have only one or two children. Cho Yong-tae at Seoul National University said, "Parents prefer to have their child in a particularly auspicious year and advertising and marketing strategies from businesses have fanned this belief."
It appears that superstition is proving to be more effective than government efforts in boosting the birthrate.
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