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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid