The New Taipei City (新北市) Government is slated to launch a taxi subsidy scheme for pregnant women registered in the city to save them the trouble of taking public transportation to periodic prenatal examinations, as part of its efforts to boost the nation’s dwindling birthrate.
“Presumably starting from October, pregnant women registered in the city will be eligible for 20 subsidized trips by taxi during pregnancy, with an average subsidy of NT$200 per trip,” New Taipei City Department of Social Affairs Director Lee Li-chen (李麗圳) said.
Lee said the taxi subsidy program was expected to be more productive than offering reserved parking spaces or shuttle bus services to pregnant women in terms of boosting the national birthrate.
At present, pregnant women who have been registered in the city for more than 10 months are given a subsidy of NT$20,000 per childbirth.
The latest taxi subsidy scheme came from a proposal submitted by New Taipei City Councilor Chou Ya-ling (周雅玲) of the Democratic Progressive Party during an interpellation session, in which she urged the city government to designate a reputable taxi fleet based in the city to shuttle expectant city residents to hospitals for check-ups.
“Such a program could not only save mothers-to-be from taking public transportation, but could also boost the revenue of the taxi fleet,” Chou said.
The proposal was greeted enthusiastically by New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who instructed the city’s Social Welfare Department, Public Health Department and Transportation Department to devise a subsidy program based on Chou’s idea.
Saying the city saw an average of between 40,000 and 45,000 pregnant women a year, Lee said the subsidy scheme was originally meant for women from disadvantaged families.
“However, a further assessment suggested that in addition to easing the increasing burdens on expectant women, the taxi subsidy program could also help enhance the image of the taxi fleet, encourage more trustworthy drivers and offer an opportunity for the Public Health Department to offer health education to mothers-to-be during each ride,” Lee said.
In light of the additional benefits, all pregnant women, except for those from more affluent households, would eligible for the taxi subsidies, Lee said, adding that pregnant women should proffer documentation.
“The city government is also planning to offer identification stickers to taxis taking part in the subsidy program, in an effort to boost their businesses,” Lee said.