Amid efforts to encourage families to have more babies, the Ministry of the Interior yesterday announced an expansion to the program that offers married couples NT$3,000 (US$94) per month to subsidize the cost of hiring babysitters for children under the age of two.
The ministry recently introduced several programs to encourage married couples to have more babies. Statistics showed that while slight increases have been seen in birthrates for first-time parents, families are more reluctant to have additional children.
In 2005, 11.4 percent of babies born were the third child in the family. By last year, the proportion had dropped to 1.52 percent.
The ministry offers married couples with a combined yearly salary of less than NT$1.5 million subsidies of NT$3,000 per month per child to send their children aged under two to community babysitting services.
The ministry said that starting next year, the program would expand to include married couples of all income levels with a third child.
The ministry said that it has estimated it will cost NT$56 million per year to fund the program.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Chia-chun (張嘉郡), who recently gave birth, praised the ministry’s plan.
Chang described the policy as “positive,” saying the offer would show people the government’s determination to address the falling birthrate.
The proposal drew mixed reactions from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, however, who said the government should look into providing more financial subsidies starting from the first child.
“This is an unrealistic empty check,” DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said in the legislature. “The [government] can’t even properly convince mothers to have their first or second baby, much less their third.”
Information compiled from government databases by the DPP caucus shows fewer than one in 12 mothers wants a third child.
Therefore, the proposal would have limited effect and most likely not give the birthrate a noticeable boost, opposition lawmakers said.
Rather, the ministry should study ways of encouraging more families to have at least one or two children, DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said.
The government should hand out large subsidies starting from the first child, and become even more generous with the second, she said.
“This [falling birthrate] is an issue we can no longer ignore,” she said. “It will have a direct impact on our national strength, labor and our [economy]. It’s an extremely serious matter.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG
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