The number of births in South Korea rose in 2007 for the second consecutive year thanks to efforts to counter the rapid ageing of society, officials said Tuesday.
The number grew by 45,000 to 497,000 last year, continuing its growth since 2005 when the figure hit an all-time low of 438,000, according to the National Statistical Office.
The fertility rate, or the average number of babies borne during a woman's lifetime, rose to 1.26 last year from 1.13 in 2006.
The office credited an improved economic climate and incentives to boost childbirth. It also said there were more marriages and fewer divorces.
After years of promoting family planning in a crowded nation, South Korea has become increasingly alarmed at the prospect of an ageing society -- with a huge pensions bill and too few workers to sustain economic growth.
The government is increasing the number of nursery schools and providing more financial support for parents.
Despite the recent growth in the birthrate, the statistical office noted that it is still near the world's lowest level. It said the government will continue to encourage births and change negative perceptions about having babies.
President Lee Myung-Bak, in his inaugural address Monday, said the government would alleviate the burden of childcare to resolve the problem.