An expert has warned that Taiwan’s birth rate has dropped drastically since 1950. Back then, the average woman gave birth to seven children, but in 2009 the average was only 1.3 children. The male to female ratio of newborns currently stands at about 110 to 100, and for the third child in a household it is 120 boys to 100 girls. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 female fetuses were aborted during 2009.
Minister without Portfolio James Hsueh, who is also a sociology professor at National Taiwan University (NTU), said that the ratio of male to female newborns is unbalanced. As a warning, Hsueh said that Taiwan’s birth rate has been declining since 1950. Around 191,000 babies were born in 2009, but the figure for 2010 may be less than 180,000. He said that when he goes to a park during holidays, he sees more people walking their dogs than playing with their children.
Hsueh said that 20 to 30 years ago, most women gave birth when they were between 25 and 29 years old, but nowadays people tend to get married later or not all, causing women to postpone getting pregnant until they are between 30 and 34 years old. Statistics show that only 43 percent of women between 25 and 34 years old are married. The decline in the marriage rate is much more obvious than in other countries.
PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUN, LIBERTY TIMES 照片：自由時報
Professor Chen Yu-hua of NTU said that Aboriginal men and men who only have an elementary school education are getting married later and later. In the early years after the end of World War II, Aboriginal men were getting married at around 24 years old, but now on average they wait until they are 33.4 years old to tie the knot. Men who only have an elementary school education get married three to four years later than university graduates, with financial hardship believed to be the reason.
Recent improvements in the financial status of women may be acting as a deterrent to getting married and starting a family. If the government is serious about increasing the birthrate, it should propose an efficient plan to change the attitude of young people or else the situation is only going to get worse.
Apart from the falling birth rate, the gender imbalance is also an area of concern. Hsueh said that parents’ gender preferences only emerge after the birth of their first child. If the first child happens to be a boy, then the second child’s gender is not an issue. But if the first is a girl, the second tends to be a boy. As the number of children in a family grows, the tendency becomes more and more pronounced, as parents rely on gender selection techniques and abortions, which creates a gender imbalance.
Hsueh estimated that there were 3,000 abortions of female fetuses in 2009, if the gender ratio of newborns remained unchanged. He suggested that regulations in the Genetic Health Law be revised to avoid unnecessary abortions. He also suggested lowering taxes on families with children under six years old.
(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATED BY TAIJING WU)
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