Wed, Nov 08, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Migrants key to population boost

Taiwan will soon experience a population crossover as the number of people born each year falls below the number who die. The National Development Council has published population projections every two years, and its Population Projections for ROC (Taiwan): 2016-2060, published in August last year, predicted that this population crossover would happen in 2021.

However, it looks as though the number of babies born this year will set a record low in recent history. If this trend cannot be reversed, the crossover point will arrive two years earlier than forecast.

Fewer births today means there will be fewer people of working age, while the older population increases, resulting in a worsening dependency ratio. This is a critical problem that rings an alarm for national security.

The government has responded by planning to merge the Cabinet’s population and talent task forces into a single unit, inventory the childcare allowances provided by each county, city and special municipalitiy and conduct an overall review of immigration policies.

Population and talent are two sides of the same coin. If there are lots of people, there will be an ample supply of labor, and plenty of talent available. If there are too few people, the labor supply will shrink and talent will tend to be thin on the ground.

Taiwan faces a double crisis of population and talent. What kind of an alarm is being seen for Taiwan’s population?

Of the nation’s 22 counties, cities and special municipalities, 10 have already begun natural population decline, and declining fertility is accompanied by a heavily aging population. As of February, there were more people older than 65 than children younger than 15 in 15 areas and older people accounted for 13.33 percent of the nation’s total population.

The proportion of older people is forecast to exceed 14 percent next year, making Taiwan an aged society, and in 2026 that figure might exceed 20 percent, at which point Taiwan would become a “hyper-aged” society.

Low fertility and aging are problems common to all developed countries. To see what kind of crises a hyper-aged society could create, look no further than Japan. In January, Japan’s total population shrank more than 0.3 million compared with the same period last year, and has fallen for eight years in a row.

For the third year in succession, people older than 65 outnumbered children younger than 15 by a more than 2-1 ratio, and low fertility combined with growing numbers of older people will cause this gap to widen.

As Japan becomes a hyper-aged society, some chronic symptoms have appeared.

The first problem is that older people generally have a strong sense of insecurity about the future, so they prefer to keep a large amount of cash on hand and are unwilling to spend a lot on consumer goods, which weakens domestic demand so that it cannot stimulate growth.

Second, as most older people are retired, there is less labor available and little impetus for innovative research and development. Consequently, Japan’s economy, which had been growing rapidly because of the “population dividend,” has gradually slowed and cooled down.

Third, the dependency ratio has worsened, because the number of workers keeps falling, but they have to support more older people. In addition, low wages resulting from economic stagnation make supporting older people an unbearably heavy burden for young people.

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