One physician is calling on the government to combat low birth rates, saying the situation is worsening.
Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology secretary-general Huang Min-chao (黃閔照) said this year is on track to be the second-worst for births since the economic crisis of nearly 10 years ago, citing a monthly average of 15,000 in the first six months.
Roughly 300,000 babies per year were born in Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s, but the number fell to 260,354 in 2001 and to 227,070 in 2003 and it has never recovered, leaving the nation with one of the world’s lowest birth rates at fewer than 10 per 1,000 people.
Since 2012 there have usually been more than 200,000 births per year, or roughly 17,000 per month, but the total might be well below 200,000 this year, Huang said.
So far this year, monthly births are 70 percent of what they were last year, Huang said.
The worst year to date for new births was 2010 following the economic crisis two years before, he said, adding that in 2010 there were only about 13,000 births per month, or an annual total of about 160,000.
The low birth rate means the population will gradually decrease, putting major stress on economic development and society, Huang said.
For example, each working-age person would have to support more retirees as the nation ages, he said.
A Ministry of Health and Welfare task force to deal with the issue met on Monday.
It said that the issue should be tackled as part of the government’s Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.
National Taiwan University professor James Hsueh (薛承泰) said that in Taiwan the birth rate is closely tied to marriage.
Only 4 percent of couples have children out of wedlock, Hsueh said, adding that the declining birth rate is likely connected with the declining number of marriages registered since last year.
The economy and unstable politics are also contributing factors, he said, adding that addressing the declining birth rate does not necessarily mean the government needs to spend large amounts of money.
However, the issue does need to be prioritized, he said.
Former minister of health and welfare Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) said that the issue should be addressed quickly so that it does not affect government departments.
The issue is more critical than pension reform and long-term care, Lin said.
The solution would require integration of government resources to improve public childcare facilities, raise the salaries of young adults and provide more social housing so that young people are more willing to get married and have children, he said.
“The government must show that it is resolutely determined to improve the situation and find a solution. If not, the birth rate crisis is going to have a terrible effect on the population structure of the nation,” he said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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