Wed, Jul 16, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Population shows signs of aging, Penghu oldest


The ratio of people aged 65 or over to the nation's total population has reached 9.1 percent this year, up from 8.9 percent a year earlier, the Ministry of the Interior said yesterday.

The rise indicates that the local population has grayed, a ministry official said, adding that the trend is even more pronounced in the countryside and outlying islands.

According to the latest ministry statistics, the ratio of senior citizens to children in Penghu has hit 80 percent this year, marking the highest figure among the nation's 25 cities and counties.

Kinmen ranks second with a ratio of 73 percent, followed by Chiayi County. Taichung City boasts the lowest ratio of elderly to children.

The ministry official said the surge in the ratio is a natural phenomenon in a nation's development. "It indicates progress in our medical services and a drop in the birth rate," he noted.

In comparison, the official said, the nation's ratio of senior citizens to children is still lower than advanced countries like Japan and Norway, but is higher than many other Asian countries, including Singapore and South Korea.

Meanwhile, the urban-rural gap in terms of the senior-citizens-to-children ratio is widening with the nation's development, the official noted.

While young people leave their hometowns for academic and career pursuits in large cities, he added, older people stay in the hinterland.

The official pointed out four major trends in population movement: from east to west, from the outlying islands to Taiwan island, from the countryside to the cities and from the mountain regions to the plains.

Noting that the graying of the population in rural areas and the offshore islands has brought about new social problems, the official said the government must overhaul the medical and welfare service systems.

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