Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Activists highlight graying nation

AGING The pan-purple alliance asked the government to help people raise children and set up a department of immigration to help the foreign wives of Taiwanese men


The recently formed Alliance of Justice and Fairness, or the pan-purple alliance, yesterday presented its population policy, proposing ways to deal with the aging population and encouraging the government to give more rights to the foreign wives of Taiwanese men.

The alliance warned the public that their retirement plans were being jeopardized by the declining birth rate.

Alliance spokesman Wu Chung-tai (吳忠泰) said that the average number of children for each married couple in Taiwan had fallen to 1.3, and the birth rate for the whole year would be less than 1 percent, the lowest in 50 years.

Wu also presented government figures showing that the proportion of people aged 65 and over was set to rise from 8.8 percent of the total population in 2001 to 10 percent in 2007 and to 20 percent by 2025.

"Soon, increasingly numerous elderly citizens will be without enough children to support them, and the country does not provide them with a sound pension and care system. [Ensuring] a dignified life in retirement will become a serious challenge," Wu said.

Alliance convener Chien Hsi-chieh (簡錫土皆) said it was important for the government to use public resources to encourage people to raise children.

"Having children should be everyone's basic right, but now many Taiwanese dare not have children because of their poor living standards and the lack of a social security network. The responsibility for child care falls mainly on families, yet private child care and education are expensive," Chien said.

The alliance also expressed its concerns over so-called foreign brides -- women from Southeast Asia and China who marry Taiwanese men.

The alliance said the first step to help these women should be to describe them as "new female immigrants" instead of "foreign brides."

They also appealed to the government to establish comprehensive immigration policies and set up a department of immigration to deal with issues such as employment, education and social welfare for the women and their children.

"Last year these new female immigrants made up 25.9 percent of the women who got married in Taiwan, and the children that were born to immigrants made up 12.46 percent of total newborns," said Wu Wei-ting (伍維婷), CEO of the Awakening Foundation (婦女新知基金會), a member of the alliance.

"However, the government considers these women the responsibility, or liability, of individual families and refuses to give them the rights to which they are entitled," she said.

Wu Wei-ting urged the government to cancel the unreasonable limitations on the work rights of such immigrants, saying they should be entitled to all the rights listed in the Labor Standards Law (勞基法).

She also suggested that the problem of domestic violence that many of these women face should be dealt with separately. Furthermore, when they divorce their husbands, courts should not always give the children to the husbands and the government should help ensure that the women are given visitation rights if they lose custody of the children.

The alliance, which was founded earlier this month, consists of well-known social groups and seeks to highlight a number of social issues in the run-up to the presidential election next year.

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