• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
Taiwan announced earlier this summer that it had the world’s lowest fertility rate, raising fears that economic productivity will drop in 10 years and cause the island to fall behind its industrialized Asian neighbors after decades of trying to keep up with them.
Just 0.9 children were born per woman on the island of 23 million people last year, declining steadily since its ideal replacement rate of 2.1 in 1982, the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement.
Taiwan follows urbanized, industrialized peers Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, places where women have become more interested in getting university degrees to pursue high-stress careers that may preclude them having children. City dwellers also fret about child-care costs in the face of other expenses.
But other Asian governments have made headway in encouraging couples to have more children. Singapore began offering baby bonuses, including cash, in 2001, for example. Japan has pushed for more automation while encouraging elders, women, and foreigners to take jobs.
To catch up, Taiwan is leaning toward subsidies and tax breaks.
“The main difference between Taiwan and other Asian countries is that its birthrate is going down while other countries have been picking up since 2005,” said Yang Wen-shan, sociology institute researcher at Academia Sinica in Taiwan.