In studies of Taiwan’s demographic changes, the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica has found that a mere 36.5 percent of men and 19.6 percent of women think getting married is an important life event. The institute also found that the government spending money or amending laws and regulations in order to encourage families to have children is having no impact on the birthrate.
Opinions differ on whether this kind of change is a matter of national security, as Japan faces a similar situation, without having a negative impact on its economic strength.
Fewer women are willing to marry and the divorce rate is rising. One reason for this is better access to universities and colleges, making it easier for women to build their own careers, but an even more important factor is that women can take back control of their own lives and are no longer restricted by traditional dogmas.
A look at the number of men and women who no longer think marriage is an important life event makes it clear that women are willing to challenge traditional family values.
In addition to conflict between married women and their in-laws, it is common to see how the happiness of married women depends on whether they give birth to a son who can carry on the family line and how others determine their value. Add work pressure to the pressure of giving birth to a son, how these pressures can force women to abandon other life options, and the unwillingness to become another person’s or even another family’s work tool, and it is not very difficult to see that these are the main reasons many women rank marriage very low.
These are not factors that government policy can do much to change.
Is this kind of self-awareness among women a bad thing? In the eyes of experts and academics who only focus on production values, this might be a topic of debate. They might say that there are too many spinsters around, that schools are closing and that consumption is dropping, but this is just a reactionary point of view.
We now live in another era, and these views have become outdated and parochial ideas. Using them as arguments to convince women to marry would only result in eye-rolls and disgust, because women feel that it is an expression of malice based on the view that men are superior to women, which is something they have seen and experienced far too often while growing up and in their daily lives.
For women to be able to escape this “fate,” the fundamental premise is that they must be treated as “human beings.” If they are not treated as autonomous, independent individuals after marrying, then there is no reason to treat marriage as an important life event in the first place.
This means that if the government continues to blame women for the low birthrate, it is missing the point completely, and their statistics in effect treat women as child-birth machines on legs that can be discarded when they can no longer have children. The more statistics of that kind the government puts out, the greater the backlash would be.
Chang Hsun-ching is a former librarian.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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