Fri, Dec 08, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Hengchun hopes new subsidy will boost population

By Tsai Tsung-hsien, Yu Chao-fu and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Hengchun Township (恆春) officials are hoping to reverse a decline in the local population by offering newlyweds a NT$20,000 (US$666) subsidy in a bid to encourage residents to marry and have children.

The current subsidies for child-rearing and education given to local families due to the township’s proximity to the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant (馬鞍山) and the Joint Operations Training Base Command have failed to stop people from moving away, officials said on Tuesday.

The township office said it has budgeted NT$4 million for the subsidy for next year, which would come from the money the township receives from the nuclear plant, as well as proceeds from the Guanshan Scenic Area (關山風景區).

However, the proposal must still pass a final review by the township representatives committee. If it does, the subsidy could be offered by the beginning of next year.

Committee chairman Chou Chih-kung (周志仲) said he hopes the proposal would be ratified and the measure become permanent.

“In Hengchun, marriage subsidies will no longer be just for public servants,” Hengchun Mayor Lu Yu-tung (盧玉棟) said.

The township’s annual birthrate is about 300, and hopefully the new subsidy will encourage locals to have more children as families will receive extra support up to the time their children begin school, Lu said.

To qualify for the marriage subsidy, couples would have to be registered as township residents for a year before their wedding, he said.

Residents who divorce and remarry would be able apply for the subsidy if their second marriage is to a different person, he added.

Hengchun’s population peaked in 1976 with about 36,000 residents, Chou said.

It had 30,783 registered residents last year and although the birth rate has risen to about 300 births per year over the past five years it is not enough to make up for the 350 or so annual deaths, Chou said.

A child-rearing subsidy introduced in 2006 provides families with one-time subsidies of NT$30,000 each for their first and second child, and NT$50,000 for a third child. Families also receive NT$10,000 for the first year of kindergarten for each child.

In related news, New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮), site of the mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, is also facing a declining population, district administrator Chen Wen-chun (陳文俊) said.

The district stopped receiving subsidies after a decision to shutter the plant following massive protests in 2014, Chen said.

Gongliao had a population of 13, 540 in 2011, but now it has just 12,546 residents, Chen said.

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