Taiwan to increase funding in hope of boosting sagging birth rates

04/27/2021 01:38 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, April 27 (CNA) Taiwan's government will increase the amount of funding it provides to help couples raise children, hoping to reverse historically low birth rates that have fallen steadily since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in 2016.

The government will raise its funding to boost the birth rate to NT$85 billion (US$3.05 billion) by 2023, up from NT$15 billion in 2016 and NT$55 billion in 2021, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said Monday according to a statement issued by the Cabinet.

Su did not specifically detail how the additional funding will be spent, but he noted that the government's monthly child-raising subsidy will increase to NT$5,000 starting in August 2022, from NT$3,500 at present.

The government also plans to increase the number of prenatal check-ups covered under the national health insurance (NHI) program, which is currently at 10, and provide subsidies for other prenatal care, Su said, according to the statement.

In recent years, Taiwan has already increased its special tax deduction for pre-school children aged five and below to NT$120,000, increased the number of public and semi-public preschools or kindergartens, and reduced preschool fees, the statement said.

Those efforts have yet to reverse the decline in the crude birth rate, which has fallen from 8.86 per 1,000 in 2016 when the DPP took power to 8.23 in 2017, 7.70 in 2018, 7.53 in 2019, and 7.01, a record low, in 2020, according to Ministry of Interior (MOI) statistics.

A total of 165,249 babies were born in Taiwan in 2020, also a record low.

Prior to 2018, Taiwan's birth rate had fallen below 8 per 1,000 only once, in 2010, when it hit 7.21, with 166,886 births. That was the year after Taiwan's economy struggled during the global financial crisis.

The magnitude of the problem was highlighted in a recent CIA report, which ranked Taiwan last out of 227 countries and territories in total fertility rate, the average number of children expected to be born per woman during their childbearing years.

One of the areas the government is looking at is improving fertility treatment.

Su wrote on his Facebook page that around 18,000 women in Taiwan receive treatment for infertility per year, and the government is studying the feasibility of expanding NHI coverage for infertility treatment.

The Cabinet statement said Su has instructed the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics to propose a plan in the next two weeks on subsidizing infertility treatment, the statement said.

Meanwhile, to create a supportive child-rearing and work environment, Su said that he will direct the Ministry of Labor to learn from more advanced countries and consult with businesses to establish more flexible working hours and allow unpaid parental leave to raise children.

(By Chen Chun-hua and Evelyn Kao)

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