Just 177,767 children were born in Taiwan last year, a record low for the decade, with the exception of 2010, when 166,886 were born, Ministry of the Interior statistics showed.
However, an annual decrease in the number of births has been slowing in recent years, likely due to the childcare subsidies introduced by the government, or the belief that children born in a Year of the Pig, which last year was, would be blessed with better luck, Awakening Foundation director of policy Chyn Yu-rung (覃玉蓉) said on Sunday.
Like 2010, 2022 will be a Year of the Tiger in the 12-year cycle of animals on the Chinese zodiac.
Doctors said that the birthrate could hit a new low that year, as many women usually try to avoid giving birth during tiger years for superstitious reasons.
Taiwanese often try to time their children according to the zodiac years, and believers of folk religions think that children born in the Year of the Tiger would have a more rugged and bumpy path in life, which is why 2010 saw so few births for the decade, Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology secretary-general Huang Min-chao (黃閔照) said.
The government should adopt early preventive measures, such as having celebrities who were born in a Year of the Tiger share their experiences as a way of helping eradicate stereotypes, he said.
However, the number of childbirths this year could hit a new low, because the number of women of childbearing age — from 15 to 49 years old — is also decreasing, Huang said.
The government should make more efforts to create family-friendly workplaces, because many Taiwanese postpone parenthood for financial reasons or due to workplace discrimination against pregnant women, he said.
However, women who wait until the age 37 or 38, when their financial situation is better, might encounter age-related infertility issues, Huang said.
Even though childcare subsidies help ease the financial burden on parents, many parents are still concerned about the number and quality of childcare institutions and private babysitters, Chyn said.
The government should also increase its efforts to oversee such caregiving services, she added.
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