Sun, Jan 10, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Despite incentives, nation’s birth rate continues to drop

LIMITED EFFECTOne reason why the incentive program proposed by the government has failed to gain traction could be that it focuses too much on short-term matters

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Measures to encourage Taiwanese to have more children have failed to reverse the declining birth rate in Taiwan, the latest Ministry of the Interior (MOI) statistics showed.

The number of newborns last year was 191,300 — a record low — and fell below 200,000 for the second consecutive year, after 198,733 children were born in 2008.

A report on world population trends published by the US-based Population Reference Bureau said that Taiwan had the lowest birth rate in the world, with one woman giving birth to one child on average.

The government has implemented a series of measures to enhance the wellbeing of children, including education coupons, medical subsidies, daycare subsidies and parental leave subsidies.

New parents are also entitled to two years of unpaid parental leave to raise their child.

Still, the birth rate has continued to decline.

Local governments have also offered incentives, with Hsinchu and Chiayi cities and Hsinchu, Changhua and Yunlin counties all granting cash subsidies to women who give birth.

Hsinchu City, for example, gives parents NT$15,000 for their first child, NT$20,000 for their second child and NT$25,000 for their third child.

Wang Yun-tung (王雲東), an assistant professor at National Taiwan University, said that raising children was a long-term process, while the government’s incentive programs were often short-term or lump-sum payments, which do not provide “enough encouragement.”

Wang said the government should start by improving the overall environment to deal with the issue.

Interior Minister Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said recently that the lack of interest in having children could be related to a weak economy, the deterioration of the natural environment and political uncertainty.

“If the basics are not improved, then all other measures will have a limited effect,” Jiang said.

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