Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Study urges action to raise birth rate

FERTILITY While most Taiwanese are married by the time they reach 40, well educated women are more likely to stay single, the latest study shows


The government should take active steps to encourage procreation, as the country's total fertility rate has continued to decline, a researcher said yesterday.

National Taiwan University assistant professor Chen Yu-hua (陳玉華) said the nation's total fertility rate, or the average number of children born to each woman, declined from 3.3 in 1986 to a low of 1.12 last year.

The Council for Economic Planning and Development predicts the fertility rate is likely to slide further to 1.1 by 2026, Chen said.

In the face of this rapid downward trend, Chen told a news conference held at the National Science Council that a comprehensive approach was needed to address the problem.

She released a report yesterday on the possible impact of recent marriage trends on the nation's future fertility rate.

"When it comes to boosting the total fertility rate, no single measure can be said to be the most effective. It requires a comprehensive approach, with the government providing maternity leave, child-rearing subsidies, daycare facilities, education subsidies and other incentives and assistance," she said.

Chen's research showed that certain marriage trends could further affect the nation's total fertility rate.

Based on data for 2005 compiled by the Ministry of the Interior, Chen said, the ratio of unmarried women with tertiary education who are over 35 years of age was higher than that of unmarried men in the same age group and with a similar level of education.

"This situation is contrary to the situation in the United States, where women with a higher level of education are often highly sought after," she said.

Quoting the same ministry statistics, Chen said that among Taiwanese aged 15 or over, the ratio of unmarried women to married women was slightly lower than the ratio of unmarried men to married men in 2005.

The study also found that most Taiwanese, men and women alike, are married by the time they reach 40.

Nevertheless, Chen said, education levels could affect the marriage rate to some extent.

Among unmarried individuals, Chen said, women with higher levels of education are more likely to remain single than their male counterparts with a similar level of education. This tendency was most evident in the 30-40 age group.

The ministry's figures show that 17.8 percent of men and 13 percent of women in the 35-44 age group were still single in 2005.

In this age group, Chen said, the ratio of unmarried female university graduates to the total female population was 24.6 percent, which is higher than the ratio of 16.1 percent for their male counterparts.

The proportion of unmarried female junior college graduates to the total female population -- 17.6 percent -- was also higher than that of their male counterparts, which was 14.5 percent, she said.

The situation was reversed among the less-educated population, Chen said.

The ratio of unmarried men with senior high school education to the total male population in the 35-44 age group was 17 percent, higher than the figure of 11.3 percent for their female counterparts.

The gap was even wider among men and women with junior high school education in the same age group, with the ratio of unmarried men to the total male population standing at 20 percent and that of unmarried women being just 6.9 percent.

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