Wed, Jan 11, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Pingtung population falls for 15th consecutive year

MORE THAN JUST BABIES:County residents said that improved work opportunities, education and childcare facilities were more important than childbirth subsidies

By Hou Cheng-hsu, Chang Tsun-wei and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

The population of Pingtung County last year dipped to 835,792, the 15th consecutive year of decline, government statistics showed.

Pingtung saw 3,400 more deaths than births, while residents moving out exceeded those moving in by 2,000, reflecting a population deficit caused by both social and natural causes, the Pingtung County Government said.

Pingtung had a population of 465,000 in 1950 and peaked at 913,000 in 1997, the county government said, adding that the county’s population has since seen annual declines since 2002.

Despite more than half of Pingtung’s 33 townships implementing childbirth subsidies — ranging from NT$2,000 to tens of thousands of New Taiwan dollars — a National Audit Office report for last year said the county’s birthrate was among the three lowest in the nation.

The subsidies are an inadequate solution to the population decline issue, Pingtung residents said, adding that better work opportunities, education and childcare facilities were more important.

Pingtung is not the only county facing a declining population, county officials said, adding that it is a common problem in the south due to the disproportionate allocation of resources to the north.

Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Men-an (潘孟安) has said that the declining population was his greatest challenge, adding that his primary task was to increase job opportunities and stem the outflow of people.

According to Pan, since he was elected in 2014, more than 25 manufacturing firms have invested in Pingtung and would begin hiring residents in June, which conservative estimates said could generate 6,000 jobs.

Statistics showed that Taitung County has been losing 1,500 residents annually, signaling that the Taitung County Government’s birthrate stimulus policies have been ineffective.

Taitung’s population peaked at 291,110 in 1975, but has been decreasing annually to 220,802 last year, the Taitung County Government said.

There were fewer job opportunities in Taitung, which caused young people to leave home to find work in other regions, it added.

There has been an increase in job opportunities in recent years, but most were in the tertiary sector, the Taitung County Government said, adding that because most of Taitung’s population are older people, the annual average death rate has exceeded the birth rate.

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