President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday urged couples to have more babies during the upcoming Year of the Dragon to help boost birth rates.
Ma said he was optimistic about rising births in the Year of the Dragon, due to start on Monday, as it is considered the most auspicious year in the Chinese zodiac and a favorite birth sign for children.
However, he suggested that the following year, the Year of the Serpent, which is an unpopular birth sign, be dubbed the Year of the “Little Dragon” to encourage more babies.
“I am very concerned that if we don’t have sufficient manpower, we would have to get it from abroad and the matter would become more complicated. It would be best if we can rely on ourselves,” Ma said.
Taiwan’s birth rate hit a record low in 2010, plunging close to the bottom of the global rankings, as the number of newborns dwindled to 166,886, down from 191,310 the year before, government data showed.
The government has offered a variety of incentives to couples in recent years, including cash gifts and other childcare and fertility treatment subsidies amid growing concerns that a declining labor force could erode the economy.
Last year, the number of newborns rose for the first time in 12 years to 196,627, up 17.8 percent from a year earlier, while the birth rate rose to 8.5 births per 1,000 people, up from 7.2 in 2010.
Taiwan’s birth rate had been falling continuously since 2000 — the last Year of the Dragon — when 305,300 babies were born.