A survey of young Taiwanese showed that only 36.5 percent of men and 19.6 percent of women believe marriage is important, a trend that academics say is key to the nation’s low birthrate.
Yang Wen-shan (楊文山), an adjunct research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology, yesterday announced the 12th round of results from a longitudinal survey of attitudes among young Taiwanese toward markers of adulthood.
While few of the respondents, who were aged 28 to 32 when surveyed in 2017, found marriage to be important, 95.8 percent believed that being responsible for oneself should take precedence, data showed.
Economic independence came in second among about 85 percent of men and women, the survey showed.
The biggest problem is that young people do not have stable accommodation, Yang said.
Difficulty in buying a house is the biggest factor keeping young couples from having children, he said.
For parents who already have one child, lack of sufficient childcare restricts them from having another, he added.
The low birthrate is closely linked to the marriage rate, not the fertility of married couples, institute associate research fellow Alice Cheng (鄭雁馨) said.
The decline in the fertility rate was mainly driven by a drop in the marriage rate among eligible women in the post-industrial period, especially those aged 20 to 29, she said.
Traditional values are to thank for the growing disinterest in marriage, Cheng said.
Confucian culture exalts continuation of the family line as the basis of filial practice, meaning that marriage is primarily considered in the context of child rearing, she said.
However, people tend to prefer a spouse close to their own age, meaning that as people hold off getting married until later in life for education or work, it becomes harder to have kids and therefore elicits greater opposition from their parents, Cheng said.
The diminishing size of each generation also adds to the problem, she added.
There are fewer young women, yet young and older men both hope to find a young wife, leading to a gender imbalance, Cheng said.
Outdated medical information compounds the problem, she said.
People keep repeating the myth that the prime age to bear children is 28 and 34 is already old, but in reality, many women have healthy children at 35, she said, criticizing obstetricians for failing to accurately convey the risks of late childbirth.
Cheng also urged more balanced discussion of the issue, as a man’s age has also been shown to affect the health of their infant.
If people do not change their traditional views of what a “normal” family looks like and government policy fails to address the right issues, a plummeting birthrate is inevitable, she added.
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