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Talk of the Day -- Taiwan's population aging too fast

2012/07/24 19:49:37

The latest estimate by the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) shows that Taiwan is aging faster than European and North American countries, with its senior citizens -- those aged 65 or more -- expected to account for a greater proportion of the population than developed countries by 2025.

By 2060, a 56-year-old will be seen as a "young person" in Taiwan, according to the CEPD estimate.

A wave of new births this year -- the year of dragon on the Chinese calendar -- could see 230,000 new babies born in Taiwan by year-end, a 10-year record that will push back by two years the time that Taiwan's population growth enters negative territory.

Below are excerpts of reports by Taiwan's major newspapers on the issue:

United Daily News:

Currently, the median age of Taiwan's population is 38. By 2060, according to a CEPD forecast, the median age will be 57, meaning that anyone under 57 could be counted as a "young person."

In terms of the speed of the aging population, Taiwan will have 16.1 percent of its population aged 65 or over by 2020, about the same as the 16.2 percent for the United States.

But by 2025, Taiwan will have more senior citizens as a percentage of the population than the U.S., the United Kingdom and Norway, according to the CEPD.

In spite of this year's "dragon" baby boom, Minister without Portfolio Hsueh Chern-tay said the number of newborns will drop below 180,000 next year, so the government will have to work hard to maintain the 180,000 birthrate level.

Because of this year's baby boom, Taiwan's population growth rate will turn negative two years later than the originally anticipated 2023. This means that the population will keep growing until 2025.

The baby boom also puts off by one year -- to 2018 -- the time when Taiwan will become an "aged society" in which over 14 percent of its population are aged 65 or older.

A key indicator for an aging or aged society is the ratio of working population to non-working juniors and seniors. This year, every 100 "working population" aged between 15 and 65 needs to support only 35 non-working juniors and seniors, the lightest burden ever.

By 2060, however, every 100 people in the workforce will have to support 97 seniors and juniors.

To cope with this aging trend, Deputy Premier Jiang Yi-huah has asked the Department of Health to speed up its long-term care program, aiming to take care within five years of 45 percent of the people who have lost the ability to look after themselves.

While some academics say the key to slowing down the aging of the population is to offer incentives for raising children, one economist suggests that treating foreign workers and foreign spouses better will turn out to be beneficial to Taiwan -- particularly when it comes to solving its aging problem.

Wu Chung-shu, president of the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CHIER), said the government should treat foreign workers and foreign spouses well, as that would help solve the problems of both population aging and workforce shortage.

Wu made the comments in the face of increasing numbers of new births to foreign mothers. In 2003, according to government statistics, 13 percent of the country's newborns were born to foreign or Chinese mothers.

Professor Lin Wan-yi does not see "age" as a burden to society. According to the National Taiwan University scholar, the government should work to improve health care and the working environment for seniors, so that they can delay their retirement or work as volunteers.

"Senior citizens can face life in a healthy manner," Lin said, urging Taiwan to get ready for the advent of the aged society. (July 24, 2012)

China Times:

The median age of Taiwan's population in 2010 was 37.4, which will rise to 57.4 by 2060, according to an estimate by the Council for Economic Planning and Development.

That 2060 figure compares to 55.9 in South Korea and 53.4 in Japan.

Taiwan became an aging society in 1993, when people 65 or older accounted for more than 7 percent of the population.

The CEPD has forecast that by 2018, over 14 percent of Taiwan's population will be aged 65 or more.

That percentage of the population will rise to 20 percent or higher in 2025, qualifying Taiwan as a "super-aged society" -- surpassing the U.S. and European countries. (July 24, 2025)

(By S.C. Chang)