As has been mentioned formerly on this blog, I am in good company having a baby in this ‘Year of the Dragon’ – or at least have a lot of company. So much in fact that maternity hospitals in Shanghai are struggling with the demand for beds as reported here in the Atlantic. If you haven’t already heard, the Dragon is the luckiest year in the Chinese zodiac. Only recurring every 12th year, the Dragon is the mightiest of the signs, symbolizing such character traits as success and ambition.
An article in the New Zealand Herald back in January last year reported that some women were even seeking sperm donors. Why should not having a partner get in the way of having a dragon baby? Although, perhaps not such a lucky baby having no father in its life. One such young woman, Miss Chuang, reportedly said that "Waiting for a full cycle, or another 12 years, is not an option because I'd be 42 by then".
All this has meant that mothers to be in many Asian countries have had to put down cash deposits to reserve limited beds and found it hard to get pre-natal checks. Luckily for health services, the year of the dragon will end soon with Chinese New Year coming up on February 10th.
So what has this auspicious year done for birth rates? The Atlantic reports as follows:
In Taiwan, between January and September 2012, births were up 14.5 percent versus the same period in 2011. Vietnam saw an additional 61,375 babies born in the first five months of 2012—a spike of 13.5 percent from the previous year. Similar statistics are not yet available for China, but a dip in the birthrate in 2011—a mere rabbit year—suggests that couples may have been postponing procreation, says the University of North Carolina demographer Cai Yong (whose own dragon baby was born last February). Tang Hui, the director of obstetrics and gynecology at the largest hospital in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province, told me when I visited her hospital that deliveries there had gone from about 200 a month in years past to between 270 and 280. “Just look at how many people are here,” she said, gesturing to the rows of expectant women in uncomfortable plastic chairs.
Higher birth rates over one year are probably no match for the damage done by China’s one-child policy. However, the Atlantic also observes other future demographic challenges. Will this birth rate spike mean that Dragon babies should forever anticipate crowded year levels at school, more competition for university places and harder battles for jobs? Luckily for my baby, the effect is unlikely to be significant in New Zealand, but perhaps countries such as China should begin to put infrastructure in place to deal with the population spike.