Thu, Oct 25, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Unequal fertility policies ineffective in the drive to boost birthrate: expert

BABY BOOSTERS:The nation’s declining birthrate is a cause for concern as the population ages, and one researcher says current policies to fix it are misguided

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Current policies to encourage fertility are inconsistent, ineffective and work at cross-purposes, a researcher said yesterday, adding that parental leave and child-rearing subsidies should be distributed equally among the public to effectively encourage fertility.

National Taiwan University associate professor Chen Yu-hua (陳玉華) presented her research results on Taiwanese attitudes toward fertility, behavioral changes and possible policy impacts at the National Science Council.

The nation’s fertility rate has dropped drastically in the past few decades, reaching a low of below 1 in 2010 before rising marginally to 1.07 last year, making Taiwan the owner of one of the lowest rates in the world, Chen said, adding that the situation has become even more pressing as the population ages.

Looking at Sweden’s success in increasing its fertility rate last year through a mix of social welfare and labor policies, shows that policies can affect individuals’ and families’ willingness to have children, Chen said.

However, it is difficult to establish such a social welfare system in Taiwan. In addition, the government must also be able to provide a large number of secure jobs for women, she added.

Chen said Germany has been able to increase its fertility rate without changing its social system, through the provision of childcare, maternity leave protection, parental leave and family allowances, which could serve as a model for Taiwan.

She said if economic concerns are the main reason why Taiwanese are hesitant to have children, then the government should adjust its current policies — which vary according to counties and cities, and between people on different vocational insurance programs — to make them more equal.

Having a different fertility encouragement policy in each area is inconsistent, Chen said, adding that while a parent on government employee, school staff, or military insurance can receive a childbirth subsidy worth two months of their salary, people on labor insurance receive a subsidy equal to just one month of their salary, and this is applicable only to mothers.

In addition, Ministry of the Interior data showed that although protected by the law, many women do not take parental leave or apply for subsidies, and that the majority of people who do make use of the subsidy were government employees or school staff, she said.

The government should review whether fertility policies should still be linked to different vocational insurance programs or whether it would be more effective to provide equal and substantial policies to support families, she said.

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