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Government seeking to tackle low birth rate: health minister

2017/12/18 13:51:36

Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) The government is mapping out measures to address the low birth rate issue, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Monday.

He made the remarks in response to a newspaper report that the number of children born in Taiwan could fall below 200,000 this year.

Around 177,000 babies were born in Taiwan in the first 11 months of this year, down 10,000 from the same period of last year, and the number of newborns could drop below 200,000 this year, according to a United Daily News report released Monday, citing government statistics.

Experts have said that the number of newborns could fall to below 150,000 in 20 years if the low birth rate continues and the government fails to come up with concrete policies to tackle the problem, according to the report.

In response, Chen said that the government places great importance on the issue and is devising child-care programs as part of an Executive Yuan initiative spanning education, talent cultivation and recruitment, immigration and industry policies.

An Executive Yuan office tasked with tackling the nation's declining birth rate is also planning a range of policies such as providing subsidies for child-care services and setting up more public nurseries.

Asked to comment on criticism that a government plan to earmark NT$600 million (US$20 million) to offer baby boxes to all expectant mothers will produce only little effect on boosting the country's birth rate, Chen said that whether the plan will come into effect is still under consideration.

The baby box, worth just NT$1,000, serves as a starter kit for a newborn baby and contains children's clothes and other necessary items.

Roughly 300,000 babies a year were born in Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s, but the number fell to 260,354 in 2001 and to 227,070 in 2003, and has never recovered, leaving Taiwan with one of the world's lowest birth rates at below 10 per 1,000 people, according to government statistics.

The low birth rate means that Taiwan's population will gradually decrease, putting major stress on the country's social fabric and economic development, according to experts.

(By Wang Cheng-chung and Evelyn Kao)