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Cabinet to introduce measures to boost birth rate

2018/05/16 18:22:27

Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德, right)

Taipei, May 16 (CNA) The Cabinet on Wednesday introduced a proposal to expand the coverage of child-rearing allowances to children between the ages of two and four years, as well as measures to help improve access to childcare facilities for preschool-age children at affordable rates, as Taiwan grapples with a declining birth rate.

The financial burden associated with raising a child is one of the many reasons for the nation's low birth rate and warrants a higher proportion of the government expenditure, Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) said.

The government is looking to cap the expense of having a preschool-age child at a subsidized daycare center at NT$16,000 (US$532) per month, Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) said at a press conference.

Lin said surveys indicate the affordable cost for daytime childcare is NT$8,000-NT$12,000, which accounts for 10-15 percent of average disposable income per household in Taiwan.

However, the limited availability of places at public daycare centers nationwide means that less than 10 percent of children under the age of two attend such facilities, with more than 70 percent aged between two and five enrolled at privately-owned daycare centers, Lin said.

Currently, most children under the age of two are cared for by mothers or grandparents, Lin said, adding that the lack of affordable childcare is one of the main reasons why the labor force participation rate for women in Taiwan was as low as 50.8 percent last year.

In Taipei, the cost of sending a child to a private daycare facility is NT$12,500-NT$37,500 per month, which is too expensive for many families, Lin said.

To increase the number of affordable daycare places, the government plans to provide subsidies to private childcare centers as a way of reducing the cost to parents, Lin said.

The proposal seeks to increase the coverage of daycare facilities provided by public or government-subsidized facilities for children under the age of two from the current level of 12.96 percent to 92.57 percent and for children 2-5 years old from 26.43 percent to 62.5 percent by 2022.

Lin said the government is hoping to introduce quotas at government-subsidized childcare centers as soon as August.

Meanwhile, beginning August, parents, who pay 20 percent or less in income tax with a child under the age of four who is not enrolled at a public or government-subsidized childcare center, will be entitled to a child-rearing allowance.

The benefit for each child will range from NT$2,500-NT$5,000 per month, depending on family income level, while a family with more than two children will receive NT$1,000 per month for each additional child, according to the proposal.

Currently, the benefit is restricted to families with children under the age of two, while parents must pay 20 percent or less in income tax and one of them be unemployed.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)