Taipei, Feb. 15 (CNA) Taiwan's elderly farmers tend to continue to work in a bid to keep their insurance and annuities, according to a study published by the National Science Council (NSC) Wednesday.
Chang Chih-hao, an assistant professor at National Taiwan University who conducted the NSC survey, said subsidies for elderly farmers have continued to climb in every major election in recent years in a bid to woo votes.
He noted that the subsidies were raised from NT$3,000 to NT$7,000 (US$237) this year.
"This, coupled with a low health insurance premium of only NT$78 per month, has resulted in elderly farmers continuing to work past the age of 65," Chang said.
"But the phenomenon has also brought about lower agricultural productivity and a rigid grip on farmlands," he said.
The average age of farmers in Taiwan is nearly 62, he said, citing a census by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics in 2005.
Compared with the U.S. and Europe, the labor force in Taiwan's agriculture sector is "seriously aging," Chang said
The NSC study also showed that the farmer insurance system encourages expansion of farming areas and undermines interest in projects to leave lands fallow.
"Compared with elderly people in other types of insurance systems, elderly farmers on pensions are more interested in continuing to work," Chang said.
He called on the government to consider reform of the farmer insurance system and ways of subsidizing farmers other than offering them cash.
Chang suggested that the government provide counseling services to help elderly farmers retire and promote the transfer of the farm operations so that young people can enter the agricultural sector.
(By Huang Chiao-wen and Lilian Wu)