Taiwan can learn from Japan, Lee says

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - Page 3

Taiwan can learn lessons from Japan in how to deal with the widening gap between rich and poor, an aging society and declining birth rates, three of the main social issues facing the nation, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said yesterday.

Lee made the remarks at a forum hosted by Taiwan Advocates to discuss ways to establish a social security system to take care of disadvantaged people.

The rising rate of inequality of income distribution is worrisome, as the average disposable income of the highest 20 percent of households was 6.01 times higher than that of the lowest 20 percent, growing from 5.18 times in 1990 and 5.55 in 2000, Lee said.

Speaking of the aging society, Lee said that within the next 18 years Taiwan would become a "super aged society," in which one fifth of the population will be over the age of 65.

The shrinking birth rate, borne out by a national fertility rate of just 1.115 percent, was the result of an inadequate childcare system, Lee said, adding that under one-third of the country's preschool children were able to register with public child-care facilities.

Lin Wan-i (林萬億), a sociology professor at National Taiwan University, said that insufficient social resources provided by the government to look after the elderly has led to an increasing dependence on foreign nursing workers.

Wang Hung-jen (王宏仁), a sociology professor at National Sun Yat Sen University, said the government should help lift the poor out of poverty by rectifying social systems that generate inequality and avoid merely granting subsidies to the public.

Nakatsugawa Hirosato, a former member of the House of Representatives in Japan, said the key point of social reform was to not increase the insurance fees paid by the poor and the elderly.