The Year of the Dragon May Spur a Baby Boom in Asia

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Feng Li / Getty Images

Young Chinese performers dressed in dragon costumes prepare for a temple fair to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Beijing on Jan. 22, 2012

Monday marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, and Chinese communities around the world will celebrate with extravagant festivities, vibrant parades and an influx in consumer spending. But forecasters and health officials are anticipating another boost: a wave of births.

State news agency Xinhua says China is expecting a 5% increase in the number of babies born in 2012, the BBC reports. The dragon, considered the most auspicious zodiac sign in Chinese culture, is often associated with good fortune and intelligence and is believed to be the sign of those destined for success.

(PHOTOS: The Year of the Dragon)

Dragon years typically generate more births than other years in the zodiac cycle, including in 2000, when Hong Kong saw a more than 5% increase in births. The zeal for the lucky sign that ancient Chinese cultures associated with the emperor has not changed. A recent poll conducted in Hong Kong revealed that 70% of couples desired “dragon babies,” CBS reports.

In places like China, an already densely inhabited country with 1.3 billion people, the potential increase might put pressure on parents who must adhere to the country’s one-child policy as well as compete for spots in the most elite schools. But in places like Taiwan, which carries one of the world’s lowest birth rates, parents and government officials are embracing the baby craze.

Chu Hong-min, 30, who is five months pregnant, told CBS she is excited to bear her second child under the dragon sign. But she lamented how the influx may result in stressful competition for her baby’s future education. “Many of my friends and colleagues are either expecting or plan to get pregnant this year,” she said. “We really have to try harder to make the children do well at school.”

But Asian mothers shouldn’t fret, Zhang Yanxia told the BBC. The visiting research fellow at the East Asian Institute in Singapore said the boom will likely have little impact on long-term fertility rates. The year 2013 marks the year of the snake, and may ultimately see a decline in births.

Some famed dragon babies include martial arts star Bruce Lee, Spanish artist Salvador Dalí and President Bill Clinton.