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Talk of the Day--Taiwan misses chance to tackle population imbalance

Talk of the Day--Taiwan misses chance to tackle population imbalance

Taiwan's aging population and declining birth rate have long been an issue but the government has not paid enough attention to it, and now a leading official has admitted that it is too late to cure the problem by any means except to alleviate the impact of a fast-aging population. During a seminar on Friday, Minister without Portfolio Hsueh Chern-tay said Taiwan had missed its chance to solve its population problem and whatever policy measures it takes now or in the future will only have limited success. "The most important thing now is to gain more time to lessen the impact of our fast aging population," Hsueh said at the seminar that was also attended by Vice President Vincent Siew. Following is an excerpt of reports by Taiwan media on the issue: China Times: According to a study by the Industrial Technology Research Institute, senior citizens 65 years and over will account for 14 percent of Taiwan's population by 2017, a figure that will rise to 20 percent by 2025. Minister Hsueh, who is an expert on population issues, said EU countries began to adopt counter-measures when their birth rate fell to 1.6 children --the average number of births per woman. Such efforts have maintained their birth rates at that level, he said. Taiwan's birth rate declined to 1.6 children per woman in 2000, but the government did not do enough to deal with the problem, so now "whatever policy measures are adopted, the effects will be limited at best," he said. Japan's aging problem actually is more serious than Taiwan's, Hsueh said, adding that Taiwan can learn from Japan with regard to raising the birth rate. He noted that Japan has encouraged women to work and has ensured their right to employment -- measures that have been conducive to increasing the birth rate. In the area of helping senior citizens, Hsueh said, Japan has taken steps to make flexible use of their assets by lowering the tax on grants and implementing a policy of "reverse mortgage." Under the reverse mortgage system, senior citizens who own houses or apartments can borrow money from banking institutions for living expenses on the understanding that when they die, their property will be taken over by the creditor to clear the debt. Hsueh cited European examples to show how government policies can address the population imbalance issue. Sweden has a good child care system that helped raise women's employment rate, and France has worked to improve its child care and employment environment, which helped its birth rate to rise in the mid-1990s, he said. Hsueh said Taiwan must do something to improve its job market, provide incentives for raising the next generation, and improve the living conditions for senior citizens in order to reduce the impact of its aging society. (Nov. 6, 2011) NOWnews: Siew said it took France as long as 115 years to "become a gradually aging society." It took the United States in 73 years, but Taiwan has encountered the aging crisis in just 24 years, he noted. Taiwan has " leapfrogged" into an aging society, he said. The first group of baby boomers, born in 1946, became 65-year-olds this year, indicating that Taiwan has formally entered the era of a "graying population," he said. With the country expected to see 20 percent of its population reach 65 or over by 2025, Siew said, Taiwan society is "aging at an unimaginable pace." "If we do not do something to cope with this situation, such as helping the elderly remain healthy and live independently -- preferably asking them to extend their contribution to society -- our country will face a grave crisis of reduced productivity and competitiveness," Siew said. In contrast with the growing population in emerging countries, Siew said, the population imbalance in Taiwan will affect its economic competitiveness. President Ma Ying-jeou has ordered government authorities to view the matter as a "national security issue" that calls for immediate attention, the vice president noted. (Nov. 5, 2011) (By S.C. Chang)


Updated : 2021-04-21 17:14 GMT+08:00