Sat, Nov 15, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Poverty fuels rise in births out of wedlock

MISPLACED AFFECTION Hualien and Taitung counties had the highest rate of children born to single mothers in the country in the first 10 months of this year


A lack of education, parental neglect and poverty are the main reasons for babies being born out of wedlock, said Kuo Hsiu-ling (郭秀齡), director of Taiwan World Vision's marketing and resource department.

"Normally, parents in low-income households are poorly educated and have to work very long hours in order to provide for their families. So they tend not to have a lot of time for their children," Kuo said.

"As a result, children in these families could have a greater need for affection and look for this affection elsewhere," Kuo said.

Kuo was commenting on statistics released by the Ministry of the Interior yesterday, in which it was reported that 6,692 infants were born to unmarried mothers between January this year and last month, a figure which constitutes 3.5 percent of the total number of children born in the same period.

Hualien County had the highest percentage of children born out of wedlock at 10.6, followed by Taitung County's at 10.4 percent and Keelung at 5.1 percent.

Hualien and Taitung counties also had one of the highest rates of households below the poverty line in the national survey, which the ministry released in June.

"As Hualien County and Taitung County have relatively small populations compared to other cities and counties, when the statistics figures are calculated in percentages, it is logical that these two places have the highest rates of infants born out of wedlock," Kuo said.

Kuo said that geographic location where the unwedded mothers live should not be taken into consideration when it comes to analyzing why women in Hualien and Taitung have a higher chance in getting pregnant outside of marriage.

"I will only acknowledge that education, poverty and parental negligence are related to this phenomenon," Kuo said.

Facts and figures

* Between January and last month, 6,692 infants were born to unmarried mothers or 3.5 percent of the total number of births.

* The percentage of out-of-wedlock children in Hualien County was 10.6 and in Taitung County it was 10.4.

* A large number of people in Hualien and Taitung counties have incomes below the poverty level.

Social workers are teaching adolescents to take preventive measures, said Teng Nai-ping (鄧乃平), an official at Taitung County's Bureau of Social Affairs.

"We frequently visit elementary and junior high schools to provide sex education and warn about sexual abuse," Teng said.

Teng said that many girls who experience unwanted pregnancies were often naive about the ways of the world.

"These girls are not aware of the bad things in their environment that can happen to them and so they are not taking precautions. For instance, some girls may drink with their friends, then get involved with the men they were drinking with and this often results in unplanned pregnancies," Teng said.

"If mothers are not able to raise their children by themselves and want to give them up for adoption, we will contact the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families to assess channels for adoption," Teng said.

Teng said the children were usually adopted by local couples who had not been able to conceive.

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