Interior ministry to redefine poverty to expand welfare

NEW POOR: Many people who have lost their jobs and are in dire financial straits find they do not qualify for aid under the current welfare programs


Wed, Sep 30, 2009 - Page 2

The Ministry of the Interior will present a plan redefining poverty by the middle of next year so that more people would have access to social welfare, the ministry’s top official said yesterday

Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that government support to low-income households was inadequate, with an increasing number of people joining the ranks of the so-called “new poor” who do not qualify for the government’s social welfare programs.

The “new poor” are defined as people with working skills who are in dire financial straits because they have lost their jobs, he said.

One of the ministry’s tasks will be to find a way to define poverty so that the “new poor” will also be covered by government subsidy programs for low-income families, said the minister, who assumed office on Sept. 10.

The ministry defines the low-income population as people whose monthly income falls below the minimum cost of living standard set by the government.

The minimum cost of living currently stands at NT$9,829 in all cities and counties except Taipei City and County, Kaohsiung City, Kinmen and Matsu.

In Taipei City, it is NT$14,558, in Taipei County NT$10,792, in Kaohsiung City NT$11,309, and in Kinmen and Matsu NT$7,400.

Ministry statistics showed that the low-income population rose to 241,237 in the second quarter of the year, an increase of more than 17,300 from the previous quarter.

This represented 1.29 percent of the total population, the highest in recorded history, the ministry said.

Asked about the nation’s falling birth rate, Jiang said that rather than offering incentives for people to have more children, he would try to determine why they were reluctant to do so.

“Subsidies are not the right solution to this problem,” he said.

Ministry statistics showed that the number of newborns last year was 196,486, dropping below 200,000 for the first time.

A US research survey published last month showed that Taiwan has the world’s lowest fertility rate, with an average of one child per woman, with the rate still declining.

The survey by the Population Reference Bureau in Washington showed that Taiwan registered only eight births per 1,000 population this year, the lowest in the world.