Nearly 9,000 more people died than were born in Taiwan in the first half of this year, Ministry of the Interior statistics show, signifying that the nation is entering a stage of negative population growth. The situation is especially severe in urban areas.
The total number of births in Taipei this year is expected to fall below 20,000, which would be the lowest in the past decade. The falling birthrate is a national security problem that keeps getting worse and shows no sign of improvement.
The low birthrate among young people is most commonly blamed on economic and social factors, namely that young people have to bear a heavy economic burden and are too busy trying to make ends meet to think about raising children.
Another view blames social and generational changes, saying that young people would rather lead a life of freedom and leisure as “DINKs” (dual income, no kids), rather than be tied down by children.
Given this situation, the central and local governments provide maternity bonuses and child-rearing allowances in the hope of encouraging people to have children.
However, the existing monthly child-rearing allowance from the central government — NT$2,500 for children from birth to five years old — and the maternity allowances given out by local governments — the highest being in Taoyuan, which pays a childbirth bonus of NT$30,000 per child and a monthly childcare allowance of NT$3,000 for children under three years old — are a drop in the ocean compared with the money and effort needed to raise a child into a useful member of society.
Young people will definitely not have children just to collect the allowances, which are better than nothing, but not more than that.
Physiological problems are another reason for the low birthrate. Factors such as environmental hormones and work-related stress have pushed the prevalence of infertility in Taiwan up to nearly 15 percent.
The fact that the US Centers for Disease Control views infertility as a public health issue shows that this problem is not confined to Taiwan.
Although there have been breakthroughs in assisted reproductive technology (ART), women who use it still have to endure dozens of doses of ovulation stimulants, the collection of eggs under general anesthesia and the implantation of fertilized eggs.
After all of that, couples still only have a 40 percent chance of becoming pregnant. This whole process causes considerable physical discomfort and psychological pressure.
Because medical insurance contracts specify that there is no payout for ART and there is no subsidy for it under the National Health Insurance system, couples can easily spend several hundred thousand New Taiwan dollars for a course of treatment, which is a heavy economic burden for most of them.
There are many infertile couples who long to have children. Many of them spend large amounts of money as they race against time to become parents.
If the government could consider providing partial subsidies for fertility treatment, it would be like manna from heaven for those couples — and it could give Taiwan’s birthrate a much-needed boost.
Fan Shuo-ming is a senior administrative specialist at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Julian Clegg
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) use their bi-annual Zhuhai Airshow to attack Taiwan on two levels. The first level became apparent to this observer after attending the first two airshows in 1996 and 1998: Why would the CCP allow Zhuhai leaders to build a second large international airport a mere 26 kilometers from the far busier Macau International Airport, with Zhuhai only cycling about ten flights a day? Zhuhai city fathers were not guilty of some corrupt “boondoggle,” they had clearly convinced the PLA to bless their city with a massive reserve airport to support future
The White House went into damage control mode after US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley suggested that there is no military solution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and diplomacy is needed to end it: The official US position is that Ukraine itself should set the terms of the peace and decide when, if ever, it is ready to talk. Yet after Tuesday’s incident with two missiles landing in Polish territory after a massive Russian strike on Ukrainian power stations, it should be clear why Milley appeared to swim against the US policy tide. The danger of accidental escalation, or world
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday last week met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at an APEC summit in Thailand. The meeting made front-page news in Japan the following day. Three years ago, when then-Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Beijing to meet with Xi, no one questioned Abe’s attitude toward China, as the conservative parties in Japan had been spearheaded by Abe. However, Kishida could easily be labeled as pro-China, as he hails from Hiroshima — a place known for its anti-war, anti-nuclear movements — and was once the director of the Japan-China Friendship Association of Hiroshima.
Superman’s latest flight took him halfway across the world. After an uncertain free agency, superstar former NBA center Dwight Howard finally and surprisingly settled on Taiwan’s T1 League, where the Taoyuan Leopards have welcomed him with open arms and plenty of photographs. In the two weeks since the team announced their latest addition, Taiwanese media and fans have barely been able to contain their excitement. A livestreamed video of Howard visiting a Taoyuan night market and trying chicken butt on a stick (“This is some good-ass chicken!”) not only got thousands of views and extensive media coverage in Taiwan, but