Thu, Feb 28, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan's birth rate at world record low

CABINET CONCERNED Officials hope that by giving more educational subsidies and helping foreign spouses integrate into society, more people will choose to have kids

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet yesterday approved a White Paper on population policy aimed at increasing the fertility rate, which is now the lowest in the world.

The fertility rate hit 1.1 last year and the government would like to see it rise to 1.6 by 2015, the average rate for countries belonging to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"The White Paper lists 125 measures to be implemented by 11 government departments that will help boost the fertility rate," Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) told a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

One measure would expand the scope of the educational subsidy for children under the age of five at two different stages. The threshold for households applying for the subsidy, currently set at an annual income of less than NT$600,000 (US$19,200), would be raised to NT$800,000 for the 2009 academic year and then to NT$1.1 million by 2011.

The amount of the subsidies, which vary according to household income and number of children, would also increase, with the maximum allotment jumping from NT$20,000 to NT$60,000.

The percentage of children under the age of five covered by the plan would increase from 85.57 percent now to 87.88 percent next year and to 93.39 percent by 2011, Lee said.

Other issues addressed in the White Paper include the increase in immigration and the nation's rapidly aging society.

The paper estimated that the total population of elderly would increase from 10 percent last year to 37 percent by 2051, while the dependency rate of the elderly will drop from 7.2 last year to 3.3 in 2026 and 1.5 in 2051, creating a heavy burden on the care system.

The White Paper says the number of foreign spouses registered between 1987 and last December was 399,038 and that 66 percent of them were from China, Hong Kong or Macau.

One of every 5.5 marriages was an international marriage and one in every 9.8 infants was born to a cross-national family, the paper said.

Lee said that the ministry had ruled out a suggestion that new regulations limit the number of foreign spouses.

"The ministry considered the suggestion inappropriate because foreign spouses give the country a pluralistic society, which we should cherish," Lee said.

"The reason to address our immigrant society is to help foreign spouses fit into society," he said.

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