At Thursday's weekly Cabinet meeting, Premier Su Tseng-chang thanked the Executive Yuan team for their unstinting efforts throughout the year to achieve significant advances on a full range of initiatives, including disease prevention, relief measures and economic stimulus. Their hard work has enabled the government's encompassing care to touch people's lives, from Taiwan's youngest to the oldest, and among disadvantaged groups and workers in agriculture, fisheries and industry.
In the areas of child care and early education, the government has more than tripled annual budgets in recent years, from less than NT$15 billion (US$464.1 million) in 2016 to NT$45 billion (US$1.6 billion) this year. Over NT$60 billion (US$2.1 billion) has been allocated for 2021, which will not only fund more spots at reasonably priced preschools, but also support higher subsidies for child care and child rearing, said the premier.
The government is also committed to lightening financial burdens borne by young people, said Premier Su. In 2019, a four-year budget of nearly NT$9.5 billion (US$307.2 million) was approved to support employment among young adults. In addition, construction on social housing units is accelerating while rent subsidies this year have been expanded to benefit 120,000 households, up from 60,000.
Regarding elderly welfare, the government's budget for long-term care has ballooned eightfold from less than NT$5 billion (US$154.7 million) in 2016 to more than NT$40 billion (US$1.4 billion) this year, with next year's budget expected to climb to more than NT$50 billion (US$1.8 billion). The recipients, scope, service locations and manpower for long-term care services are also being expanded. In addition, the Middle-aged and Elderly Employment Promotion Act took effect this December, encouraging older workers to reenter the workforce while promoting interactions and experience sharing between young and old, the premier said.
The government has also raised the national minimum wage five times over the past five years. Furthermore, taxpayers saw a record increase in the basic living expense allowance per person for income tax purposes, the fourth hike in as many years. Despite the substantial impacts of COVID-19, Premier Su said, the administration is still working thoughtfully to raise worker incomes and ease tax burdens for ordinary citizens.
As for agricultural workers, the government has not only protected the NT$200 billion (US$7 billion) pork industry by blocking African swine fever from entering Taiwan, but also succeeded this June in having Taiwan recognized as a country free of foot-and-mouth disease so that fresh pork exports could resume once more. Efforts to set up health insurance, occupational injury insurance, crop insurance and a pension savings scheme have also been completed to increase benefits and protect livelihoods for agricultural workers, the premier said.
Looking ahead, the government will step up such policy efforts as upgrading the long-term care 2.0 system, strengthening the social safety net, and supporting families with young children ages 0-6. Premier Su instructed all ministries and agencies to continue their endeavors on these fronts.