News / Asia

Taiwan Birth Rate Falls to World’s Lowest

A young boy holds his sister as their family prays at a local temple. Taiwanese official has urged citizens to procreate amid fears the Year of the Tiger may bring reduced reproduction on the island already with one of the world's lowest birth rates, (Fil
A young boy holds his sister as their family prays at a local temple. Taiwanese official has urged citizens to procreate amid fears the Year of the Tiger may bring reduced reproduction on the island already with one of the world's lowest birth rates, (Fil
Ralph Jennings

Taiwan announced this week that its fertility rate had fallen below one baby per woman, worrying the government about its future supply of manpower and brain power. Taiwan’s rate of 0.9 is now the world’s lowest, but other developed Asian economies are close behind. 

Taiwan’s fertility rate of 0.9 puts the island in the same league with other Asian territories that have industrialized and urbanized. The Chinese territory of Macau recorded a fertility rate of 0.92, and the next lowest rate belongs to Hong Kong at 1.07. Singapore, Japan and South Korea also have some of the world's lowest birthrates.

Officials in Taipei partly blame the Chinese zodiac calendar for the drop. 2010 was the Year of the Tiger, considered inauspicious for births.

But the drop is also part of a broader regional trend.  A shift away from traditional rural lifestyles has allowed women easier access to university education and the time-consuming jobs that follow.  Pricey childcare and later education in already-expensive Asian cities strain family budgets. Chinese people have traditionally preferred large families, but some say that, in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, career advancement has overtaken that goal.

Linda Arrigo is an American-born academic and a member of a non-governmental organization called the Population Association of Taiwan.

“Having been here in the 1960s as a teenager, I’ve seen this tremendous change from people wanting to have four or five children to now the young women I know, many of them say they want one or no children at all," Arrigo explained. "And it’s hard to understand the motivation except that professionals want a life of their own.”

She says equality between the sexes has made great strides in Taiwan and so women are more reluctant to give up the financial independence from their careers to stay at home.

"Young people’s motivations are so much changed. They say that having children is prohibitively expensive. They don’t want to spend the labor. They are also very much pressed in their professional jobs, as teachers, as computer programmers,” she said.

China, which slowed its rapidly growing population in the 1970s with the one-child policy, has seen fertility fall to 1.7 children per woman, slightly below the 2.1 considered ideal for replacement. But the population that already makes up a fifth of the world is still expected to grow because of greater life expectancy and a gradual easing of the one-child policy.

Asian governments have scrambled for answers as they fear population drops will lead to falling productivity, making businesses less competitive. Wai Ho Leong is a regional economist with Barclays Capital in Singapore.

“If you look at Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, the low birth rate is a key policy priority which they’re trying to address right now," Wai said. "To make matters worse, in all three countries, including China, there’s also an active aging dynamic that’s seeping into the workforce.

Less developed Asian countries have generally higher fertility rates and are expected to grow by about 7.3 percent this year, much more than their more urbanized and industrialized neighbors.

Wai Ho Leong says those numbers trouble officials in more developed nations, who are trying various schemes to overcome an aging workforce and lower productivity. “I think one policy that the Singaporeans have pursued is to open its doors to immigration and particularly the skilled migrants as a means to overcome low birth rates domestically. For less heterogeneous societies, like Taiwan, China, South Korea, the only way out is to deepen the skills intensity and the technology intensity of their economies,” Wai stated.

Singapore has also offered baby bonuses, including cash, since 2001 and business is booming in its fertility clinics. Japan has sought to safeguard its economy with more automation and by encouraging elders, women and foreigners to work. Taiwan is leaning toward subsidies and tax breaks to ease costs of education and childcare.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid