The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Saturday announced that it would cancel its NT$600 million (US$20 million) “baby box” program proposal, which aimed to address the nation’s low fertility rate and the trend toward having fewer children.
The ministry in October proposed the program, which is modeled after a Finnish policy.
The so-called baby boxes would include childcare information and necessities for newborns, and each box would cost about NT$952 to produce.
The program was originally included as part of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.
The proposal faced a public backlash and on Oct. 17 a person claiming to be the mother of a two-year-old began a petition on the National Development Council’s online public policy participation platform requesting that the proposed budget be used instead to subsidize childcare and education for children aged two to five.
In a number of meetings and discussions with academics, experts and the public, all parties gave negative feedback and said that spending this money would not be effective, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said, adding that the Executive Yuan asked that the money be spent where it is most needed.
The Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan also asked the ministry to reassess its proposal, Chen said, adding that fragmentary plans like the baby box program create excitement, but are not meaningful.
The Executive Yuan has a comprehensive plan for nurturing and recruiting talent, and the plan is also related to the trend of having fewer children, Chen said, adding that the resources would be integrated with those for the plan.
The baby box program was a mistaken decision that was forcibly added to the development program, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀) said, adding that the ministry was correct to cancel it.
Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology secretary-general Huang Min-chao (黃閔照) said that the decision was correct, as for regular families, the boxes would not be an incentive.
Women often worry that their jobs and positions would be affected after childbirth, Huang said, citing observations.
If the government could push for friendly workplace environments and allay women’s fear that their jobs will be affected if they have children, that would definitely raise the fertility rate, Huang added.
As the mission to tackle the falling fertility rate has already been transferred to the Executive Yuan and the National Development Council, the ministry would not develop new policies for the time being, Chen said.
According to statistics from the Ministry of the Interior, the number of newborns in the year as of the end of last month was 177,728 and if the current trend continues, the total number of newborns this year could be less than 200,000.
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