Wed, Jan 15, 2014 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Migration boosts birth rates

Taiwan and many other developed nations have alarmingly low birth rates. Taiwan has been averaging only one baby for every woman for the past decade.

However, the average life expectancy in Taiwan has increased to 76 years for men and 82 for women. This means that Taiwan’s population is getting older and living longer.

Over the past decade, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Part (KMT) governments have tried various means to improve fertility rates.

Various incentives like child subsidies, grants and an increase in daycare centers have not improved the statistics.

The latest offering of the KMT government to allow more Malaysian and Chinese students to study in Taiwan is an attempt to increase the number of seats occupied at Taiwanese universities.

They have seen a huge drop in enrollment figures as a result of less children passing through the educational system. The economic impact of low fertility rates will be felt over the following decades.

An aging labor force will be expected to work well into their 70s to cover the costs of their elderly parents’ care. And how many children will there be to look after their parents, who, in turn, look after their parents?

European countries have more relaxed immigration policies than Taiwan. Immigrants from Africa and Central Asia help boost fertility rates in these countries.

However, Taiwan’s immigration rules are more stringent. Foreign couples cannot live in Taiwan and claim the child benefits of locals, even if they are legally employed.

Many Taiwanese men would rather have foreign brides from Southeast Asian countries, who are more likely to settle down and have babies than Taiwanese women.

Babies are seen as a hindrance to a woman’s career aspirations. Children should be seen as a loving economic asset, not a financial burden. However, many women do not want to stay at home and look after a child. Having a foreign spouse is beneficial to Taiwan as they are more likely to have children.

In some European countries, when a couple has a second child, they are given US$10,000 in child subsidies.

Having one child per woman is not ideal. Taiwan urgently needs women to have a second child to address the future economic and population crisis. Allowing relaxed immigration rules is the quickest way to counteract these calamities.

However, the KMT government does not want Taiwan to lose its Han Chinese ethnic dominance. It realizes the severity of this issue and is trying to gloss over it by quickly signing the cross-strait service trade agreement with Beijing. This pact will allow more Chinese immigrants into Taiwan. These immigrants could help boost the fertility rates, which is exactly what Taiwan needs.

The DPP has yet to announce a credible China policy plan, but the KMT has shown that it does have a clear policy. Politicians are still arguing in the legislature over the service pact’s intricacies while Taiwan’s population wilts.

Paul Gilford

South Africa

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