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Subsidies alone cannot boost Taiwan's low birth rate: minister

2012/04/15 19:47:49

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) More than subsidies will be needed if Taiwan hopes to address its plunging birth rate and ease the sense of uncertainty felt by many young adults, Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan said in a recent interview with CNA.

The problem at the core of the issue is that society as a whole has become less harmonious, resulting in young people feeling more uncertain about their future, Lee said, and young people will only be more willing to get married and have children if things that make them feel insecure are improved.

Despite a slight increase in the birth rate in 2011 thanks to economic stimulus measures and a sense of optimism during the country's centennial year, Taiwan's birth rate fell to a record low of 0.89 births per woman in 2010, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Taiwan became officially classified as a "low birth rate" country in 2003 when its birth rate hit 1.23 births per woman, down from 3.09 recorded in 1976, said Chang Shiu-yuan, director of the ministry's Child Welfare Bureau.

President Ma Ying-jeou has even described the declining birth rate as "an issue of national security."

"Our society has problems," Lee said, adding that he believed everyone should face the situation rationally and really sit down to discuss what kind of society we want.

Religious leaders can also come up with some topics for the discussion, which might help solve some problems and promote harmony, Lee said, because constant confrontation simply makes young people feel there is no future.

The ministry currently offers NT$2,500 (US$84.7)-NT$5,000 per month per child to less affluent families while local governments also have their own subsidies to families with newborns.

(By Angela Tsai and Kendra Lin)