New approach needed to boost birth rate: alliance

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Nov 06, 2013 - Page 4

The current social welfare subsidies for unemployed parents have not helped raise Taiwan’s birth rate, Childcare Policy Alliance convener Liu Yu-hsiu (劉毓秀) said yesterday.

The government has offered childcare benefits of NT$2,500 a month for unemployed parents — a family with at least one of the parents unemployed — with a child of up to two years old since last year. Although the policy states its terms in gender-neutral language, it usually means the female caregiver in the household.

Taiwan’s birth rate has been lingering at about one per 1,000 of the population for years and the increase last year was not the result of the policy, but of the “Year of the Dragon effect,” the alliance said, adding that the number of births in the same period in the Year of the Snake (from February to September this year) decreased by 15 percent year-on-year.

“The government’s own official report concerning the policy admitted that the effect of the policy is limited as childbearing takes both financial and emotional commitment,” Liu said.

Liu said that Sweden and Russia — with a birth rate of 1.9 and 1.6 per 1,000 respectively last year — have implemented different, but equally successful approaches to boost their birth rates while maintaining the employment rate of women.

While Sweden’s approach relies on quality public childcare, Russia’s improvement has depended upon a policy that guarantees a US$10,000 subsidy for those who gave birth to a second child, Liu said.

“If the Taiwanese government wants to achieve Russia’s birth rate by adopting a cash-payment approach with the same effect, it would need to dole out about NT$70 billion [US$2.38 billion] in total, which is not exactly a long-term solution for a country short of money,” she said.

She said Taiwan’s female labor participation rate is higher than the two countries between the ages of 25 and 29, but decreases drastically thereafter, while both Swedish and Russian women continue to work until reaching the age of retirement.

The alliance called on the government to establish public childcare and daycare systems, saying that would help create jobs, boost the birth rate and keep women in the workforce.