Wed, Nov 08, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Migrants key to population boost

Japanese society is gradually sinking and most people dare not hope for a better tomorrow.

As for Taiwan, which faces a powerful enemy, it must also consider the important issue of a growing shortage of military personnel, be it through conscription or voluntary enlistment, which has serious implications for national security.

What can be done about the aging population crisis? There are two main kinds of policy response. One is to encourage childbirth and the other is to attract immigrants.

Existing government childcare benefits do not provide sufficient incentive to make people want to have more children. To achieve that, Taiwan would have to establish more daycare centers, recruit more government-employed babysitters and build a more comprehensive childcare system. Beyond that, people will not be willing to have more children unless a prosperous economy can be built.

Attracting more immigrants can help fill the population gap. Priority should be given to attracting professional talent in science and technology, which would effectively boost industrial competitiveness and make Taiwan more internationalized.

On Tuesday last week, the legislature passed the Act Governing Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals (外國專業人才延攬及僱用法), which relaxes regulations on visas, residence permits, health insurance and retirement for foreign resident, as well as offering tax concessions to attract foreign white-collar workers and encourage them to become permanent residents. All these measures are intended to welcome more foreign professionals to Taiwan.

Taiwan has taken a step in the right direction by cutting red tape to attract foreign professionals. However, it cannot be denied that the immigrants Taiwan has attracted in the past have mostly come from countries at a lower level of economic development than Taiwan, while most of them have immigrated through marriage to Taiwanese.

Immigrants of this kind have rather uneven levels of culture and education, so those who are employed in production are mostly engaged in low-tech, labor-intensive work that does little to help make Taiwan’s industries more competitive.

Nowadays, the economies of their home countries are surging ahead and offer much greater wages and incomes. In comparison, Taiwan’s economy is in much poorer shape, so people from those countries have less incentive to come to Taiwan, and they no longer need to leave their homelands to make a living.

However, a reduction in this kind of immigration is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, it could encourage Taiwanese to stop relying on cheap labor and instead strive to attract high-tech talent from abroad, thereby creating more robust industries.

To solve the problems of an aging population and falling birth rate, apart from improving childcare provision, the challenge of attracting professional talent to live in Taiwan is a still more pressing task.

Taiwan is by nature a society of immigrants. Other than Aborigines, the ancestors of the great majority of Taiwanese were either migrants who came here in search of a better life or refugees who came here to escape wars and other disasters.

Aborigines, migrants and refugees have together formed the diverse blend of communities that is Taiwan today.

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