Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 1 News List

NDC to prioritize raising fertility rate

SOCIOECONOMICS:Social welfare benefits are not a guaranteed solution, as young people have complained about soaring housing prices and a lack of well-paying jobs

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

National Development Council Minister Chen Mei-ling speaks at a news conference in Taipei on Sep. 26.

Photo: Chen Mei-ing, Taipei Times

The National Development Council (NDC) has added raising the fertility rate to its list of priorities as the nation’s population continues to age rapidly due to the declining number of births, NDC Minister Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) said yesterday.

The nation’s top economic policy planner and executor has received the Cabinet’s approval to merge two task forces in charge of the low birth rate and talent recruitment into an upgraded panel that Premier William Lai (賴清德) is to head, she said.

“The council is to approach the matter from a broad perspective encompassing economic, industrial and talent recruitment policies, rather than focus on the introduction of welfare benefits as in the past,” Chen told a news conference.

The gravity of the issue warrants the escalated attention, as the demographic trend could evolve into serious social and economic problems, she said.

Taiwan’s fertility rate — the average number of children born per woman — was 1.17 last year, with 208,000 births, Chen said, citing Ministry of the Interior data.

The number of births is expected to drop to fewer than 200,000 this year, with only slightly more than 120,000 births in the first eight months, she said.

Taiwan is ranked 219th in the world in terms of birth rate by the CIA’s World Factbook, seventh from last.

The introduction of social welfare benefits promises no solutions, as young people have complained about soaring housing prices, low wages, a lack of well-paying jobs and other socioeconomic concerns, Chen said.

The number of people in the nation aged 65 or older overtook that of children younger than 15 for the first time in February and is expected to account for 14 percent of the overall population next year, officially making Taiwan an aged society, she said.

Taiwan is forecast to become a “super-aged” society in 2026, when the number of older people is expected to surpass 20 percent of the total population, she added.

Academics and business groups have voiced concern about a contraction in private consumption in the medium to long term if the trend persists.

The fertility rate promotion group is to convene its first meeting in the middle of next month, Chen said.

A fertility rate of more than 2 is required to maintain a steady population, because there must be as many offspring as parents after accounting for child mortality, academics have said.

The government aims to remove obstacles to building a family and raising children, Chen said, adding that potential policy measures include the construction of public housing units and a review of education, immigration and industrial policies.

Meanwhile, the council is to steer a task force to facilitate private investment from domestic and international companies, she said.

The task force is to meet for the second time on Wednesday next week to address concerns over the tight supply of water, electricity, workers, land and talent, she added.

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