Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday moved the three most pressing demographic challenges — a low birthrate, an aging population and a slow influx of professional migrants — up the government’s policy agenda to explore ways to resolve them.
The three problems were identified by the Ministry of the Interior as the three biggest challenges facing the country in a briefing delivered at the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The issue aroused enthusiastic discussions among Cabinet officials, while Chen ordered Vice Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to start coordinating officials to work out measures to deal with the problems earlier than the originally scheduled date, Government Information Office spokesman Philip Yang (楊永明) said.
Jiang is scheduled to set up an intergovernmental mechanism for policy coordination among government agencies to discuss the issue in July, Yang said.
The ministry’s Department of Household Registration Director Hsieh Ai-ling (謝愛齡) said the number of babies born in the first quarter of this year had increased by 7,582, or 17 percent, compared with the same period last year, prompting the ministry to revise upward the expected number of newborns this year to 230,000.
The unusual rise was due mainly to it being the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac this year, Hsieh said.
“Given the trend toward a low marriage rate and for couples to marry later in life these days, we expected only 1.8 million new babies during the decade,” Hsieh said.
Taiwan had the world’s lowest birth rate in 2010, with only 166,886 newborn babies, meaning that women in Taiwan give birth to an average of 0.895 babies.
Taiwan reached the “aging society” stage in 1993 when its over-65 population increased to more than 7 percent of the total population, with the percentage reaching 10.89 percent, or 2,528,249 people, at the end of last year, Hsieh said.
Hsieh said Taiwan would likely become an “aged society” in 2017 under a UN definition in which the proportion of total population aged 65 or above exceeds 14 percent, and a “super aged society” in 2025 when the proportion reaches 20 percent.
The government aims to elevate the percentage of disabled aged people covered by its long-term care system from the current 43,000 people, or 16 percent, to 45 percent in five years, and 70 percent, or 280,000 people, in 10 years, she said.
Another issue to be addressed was encouraging the immigration of professional and skilled people, which accounts for a very small proportion of the country’s total immigration, which is mainly composed of marriage-based immigration, Hsieh said.
As of the end of last year, the nation counted 459,390 immigrants, of whom 296,095 were from China, 12,440 from Hong Kong and Macau, and 150,855 from other countries.
However, there were only22,037 immigrants who are professionals or skilled laborers, she said.