Is it because of a lack of funding?
Last year, the government budgeted NT$3.2 billion (US$110 million) for various incentives to increase the birth rate.
However, the use of cash subsidies pushed up the cost of childcare, despite the good intentions behind the government’s policies. The government spent a lot, yet parents did not feel they received any benefit.
In addition to operators having profit expectations, private childcare centers are so expensive because of the high costs for land, buildings and equipment.
Given government streamlining and frozen budgets, there are also practical problems in meeting the demand for wider establishment of public daycare centers.
If the above-mentioned NT$3.2 billion in various forms of subsidies could be used to rebuild idle public facilities to meet legal regulations, if the expertise of non-profit organizations could be put to good use and if unemployed young people could be given specialized training, it might be possible to establish more publicly owned, privately run childcare centers.
Without having to carry the cost for building such centers — there are many unused or underused public buildings — it is likely that childcare fees could be lowered and the problems of youth unemployment and the low fertility rate could be solved.
The best way to deal with the problems associated with the nation’s declining birth rate would be for the government to invest in childcare services and promote lower costs and improved quality, making the fees of childcare a public instead of a private cost, perhaps even changing its policies by applying the 12-year compulsory education program to children between the ages of three and 15 instead of between six and 18.
However, if the government continues to think it is doing the nation a favor solving problems by merely spending money and giving out small benefits here and there, it will never be able to effectively increase the willingness of Taiwanese to have children.
Jason Yeh is an associate professor of finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Translated by Drew Cameron