The country's youth should get married and bear children earlier to help counter a decline in the number of newborns, the Bureau of Health Promotion suggested yesterday.
Bureau Director Chao Kun-yu (趙坤郁) said the birth rate last year dropped to 1.12 percent, down 0.06 percentage points from 2004.
The rate has fallen by 33 percent since 2000, he said at a press conference.
Chao estimated that fewer than 200,000 babies may be born this year, adding that the country would face zero population growth by 2017, which could contribute to problems such as a shortage of workers and being able to address the long-term health care needs of the elderly.
Calling babies "the happiness that can never be replaced," Chao said: "Bearing children is the best experience that we should pursue and enjoy in life."
Women are more likely to give birth to healthy children if they have them before they turn 30, Chao said.
"Age remains the most important factor in barrenness," Chao said.
Jhongli City Mayor Ye Pu-liang (
As people are having their first child much later, the nation is facing a "birth crisis," he said.
Banciao Mayor Chiang Hui-chen (江惠貞) urged the government to create a better economic and living environment so that people would be willing to get married.
"Having babies is a `community business,' not a personal one," Chiang said.
Some regions offer incentives for giving birth, including Taipei, Hsinchu and Tainan cities, and Miaoli, Hsinchu, Tainan and Taitung counties.
The subsidies vary across the country, ranging from NT$2,000 (US$61) to NT$100,000 per birth.
Some areas such as Hsinchu City offer additional benefits for the second and third child.