Life expectancy declines in N.Korea since 1990s
Mon, Feb 22, 2010

SEOUL, Feb 22, 2010 (AFP) - Life expectancy in North Korea has declined over the past 15 years, with an increase in infant mortality and more mothers dying in childbirth, according to census figures seen Monday.

The 2008 census conducted with help with the United Nations Population Fund was the first since 1993. The hardline communist government last December published some statistics but the UN figures give further details.

The population rose from 21.2 million to 24.05 million over the 15-year period, despite a famine in the mid- to late 1990s which killed hundreds of thousands and continuing food shortages since then.

But infant mortality rose from 14 per 1,000 live births to 19, and the maternal mortality rate grew from 54 to 77 deaths per 100,000 live births.

As a result, overall life expectancy declined by 3.4 years to 69.3.

A report by the UN's World Food Programme last September said one-third of the country's women and children aged under five are malnourished.

Overseas donations for feeding programmes have fallen sharply because of the standoff over the North's nuclear and missile programmes and Pyongyang has also rejected some aid.

The census figures show just over 724,000 people working in public administration and defence, though it was unclear if this was a definitive guide to the size of the North's military.

South Korea's defence ministry says its neighbour's military excluding reserves totalled 1.19 million in 2008.

Agriculture, fishing and forestry was the North's dominant industry, followed by manufacturing. Some 53 percent of the workforce in agriculture was female.

Living conditions were basic, with 65 percent of households living in two-room units. Some 73 percent of homes had a floor area between 50-75 square metres (538-807 square feet).

About 85 percent of homes had access to running water and 58 percent had flush toilets.

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