FOREIGN AFFAIRS: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Taiwan faces risk of demographic collapse
, November 26, 2011
In an important response to the ageing of its population, a Taiwanese government minister has stated that Taiwan has missed the chance to deal with its demographic decline which will have a damaging effect on its economy and its future.
China Times reported that during a recent seminar the Minister without Portfolio, Hseuh Chern-tay, suggested that Taiwan’s population decline was irreversible, and he said that all that could be done was to lessen its impact by keeping elderly people in the workforce longer.
According to a study by the Industrial Technology Research Institute, senior citizens 65 years and over will account for 14 per cent of Taiwan’s population by 2017, a figure that will rise to 20 per cent by 2025.
Mr Hsueh, who is an expert on population issues, said EU countries began to adopt counter-measures when their birth rate — the average number of births per woman — fell to 1.6 children. 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, he said, “whatever policy measures are adopted, the effects will be limited at best”.
Taiwan’s Vice-President, Vincent Siew, who also spoke at the seminar, reinforced the message.
Mr Siew, who comes from a large family, served in Taiwan’s diplomatic service and has been one of the architects of Taiwan’s economic miracle, said it took France 115 years to “become a gradually ageing society”. He said Taiwan has encountered its own ageing crisis in just 24 years.
Mr Siew said that, with the country expected to see 20 per cent of its population reach 65 or over by 2025, Taiwan society is “ageing at an unimaginable pace”.
He warned: “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.”
In contrast with the growing population in emerging countries, Siew said the population crisis in Taiwan will affect its economic competitiveness.
Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has ordered government authorities to view the matter as a “national security issue” that calls for immediate attention.