In an interview with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) discussed the government’s thinking on the nation’s demographic time bomb.
Lin said that the solution entails not only trying to increase the birth rate: It also includes overhauling the immigration system.
If Taiwan does this, the implications for its cultural and ethnic mix could be huge.
Forecasts suggest that the nation’s population would begin decreasing in 2025, Lin said.
There is a need for talent recruitment. Foreign migrant caregivers are allowed to stay and work in Taiwan for up to 14 years. This needs to change, and the government is thinking of changing immigration rules to allow skilled workers to stay and continue to provide services, and for their children to be able to stay in Taiwan.
Long-term care provision is not the only sector in need of more migrant skilled workers: Fisheries and farming will need them, too.
In addition, the government has already introduced amendments encouraging foreign professionals to work in Taiwan and perhaps even settle here with their families.
The Executive Yuan will soon discuss planned labor immigration from the nations targeted by the New Southbound Policy, Lin said.
This will potentially include nations with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Bhutan, Australia and New Zealand.
This follows the government’s policy of less cultural and economic dependence on China, and a shift toward New Southbound Policy nations.
Lin also specified the relatively strict restrictions on immigration through marriage or as dependents. These will presumably need to be relaxed, which would be a gradual process over the next few decades to address the changing situation.
The more migrants that come, the more there will be a need for people to bring their spouses and families with them. This will not be seen as merely an inducement: It will be regarded as a right.
Naturally, the spouses and dependents will not necessarily bring a needed skill set with them. If the government allows them to stay, it will expect them to contribute taxes, and so will also need to provide access to National Health Insurance and other guarantees.
Migrants arriving in a country tend to gravitate toward people from their home nation, for familiarity and the need of a support network. Due to the predominantly economic reasons migrants would have arrived in Taiwan, concentrations of the diaspora would form in major cities, which have the most jobs.
The bigger these separate diaspora become, the more support they would offer and the lower the likelihood of individual migrant’s integration into the indigenous population.
This means there might be pockets of communities with their own cultural and linguistic norms, which in some cases might lead to the local population feeling a sense of alienation in their own country.
The more ethnic diversity within the nation, the more diverse opinions there will be. The larger the number of these minorities, the louder their voices will become.
This is not to say this policy should not be followed. Taiwan, with its aging population, needs more skilled workers and professional talent, and ethnic and cultural diversity is a good thing. The nation will benefit greatly from these changes in the decades to come, if the government goes down this road.
It simply needs to be aware that such a policy will bring a major change to the cultural and ethnic make-up of the nation, and needs to be mindful of how Taiwanese will react in the decades to come.
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