Thu, Jan 06, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Local governments bar single-mother subsidies

NOT VALUED:Many local regulations require mothers wishing to apply for a subsidy for newborns to provide proof that they are married in order to get the money

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

One-third of all local government offices in Taiwan refuse to provide subsidies to single mothers with newborns even as Taiwan’s plummeting birthrate reaches new lows, according to information released yesterday.

Local regulations adopted by 36 township and district offices mean that single mothers with newborns will be unable to receive the between NT$2,000 and NT$10,000 in cash subsidies even if they meet all other requirements.

Those local government offices say that any request for a subsidy, which can run as high as a NT$100,000 bonus for triplets in Hsinchu City, must be accompanied by information proving the parents are legally married, in addition to other residency conditions.

The information, released yesterday by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), led women’s advocacy organizations to call the regulations an active form of discrimination, especially against a group that needs the subsidies most.

“The [Constitutional Court] has already made it clear that any discrimination based on gender or marital status is a violation of gender equality principles,” said Chen Chao-ju (陳昭如), a National Taiwan University professor who heads the Awakening Foundation, a women’s rights group.

The regulations, she said, suggest that children born out of wedlock are not, from a government perspective, “ideal citizens.”

This is a new type of marital discrimination, which penalizes single mothers, she said.

Government statistics show there were 7,492 births by single mothers in 2009, out of a total of 191,310 nationwide. That number has steadily increased in the past decade, from 3.3 percent in 2000, when the birthrate was 305,312, to 3.9 percent last year.

LOW BIRTHRATE

Although providing the subsidies is a means to reverse the nation’s rapidly declining birthrate — which fell below 180,000 for the first time last year — it would be a mistake to ignore a growing segment who choose not to get married, Huang said.

“Taiwan’s birthrate is at a historic low. Under these circumstances … central government agencies down to local district offices should actively encourage more births … not discriminate based on gender and marital status,” she said.

However, local government offices say the subsidies are aimed at financial relief to families and that single mothers can apply for other types of assistance from the central government.

Several offices have said they were nevertheless reviewing those regulations.

SNUBBED

In Taoyuan City, which provides a subsidy of NT$5,000 per child to legally married couples who have resided in the municipality for more than six months, officials said single mothers applying for the subsidy would be turned away and referred to other agencies.

Other districts that also reject such applicants outright include Keelung and Hsinchu City. The same regulations also exist in areas in Yilan, Miaoli, Changhua, Chiayi, Hualien and Penghu counties as well as parts of Greater Kaohsiung.

New Taipei City (新北市) officials said the regulations were under review.

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