Premier Lai Ching-te on Wednesday convened a press conference to introduce the government's policy response to the problem of Taiwan's low birth rate, focusing on the care and education of children aged 5 and younger. The policy contains three principal measures aimed at easing burdens associated with child care. The premier expressed hope that this approach will successfully counter the trend in Taiwan toward fewer children by raising the birth rate.
In 2017 Taiwan saw fewer than 200,000 births for the entire year. Premier Lai said that should this trend continue unchanged, population growth will turn negative in 2025, with the total population falling below 20 million by 2035. Rather than relying solely on immigration to counter this drop, the government announced today's new measures to encourage the citizens of Taiwan to have and raise children of their own.
To address the challenge of balancing responsibilities at both work and home, the Executive Yuan has sent a revised Early Childhood Education and Care Act to the Legislature for review and debate, said the premier. The legislation has already passed through committee and now awaits the results of negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties. The law will provide private enterprises with more freedom to establish onsite daycare or cooperative child care services for the children of employees, allowing parents to attend to both job and family.
Improving the child care environment is also a goal of government policy, said Premier Lai. Guided by the principles of honoring parents' right to choose, guaranteeing respect and care for every child, and crafting seamless policy, the government will continue to push rapidly toward a public childhood education and care system to lighten the burden of child-rearing shouldered by parents. By raising wages for child care workers, setting fixed quality standards, and boosting the percentage of children enrolled in public and quasi-public facilities (to 62 percent from the current 30), the government expects to increase the willingness of potential parents to have and raise children.
Multiple policies will be pursued in parallel, the premier said, so in addition to the existing promotion of public and non-profit preschools, the government will maintain cooperation with private child care centers as it implements the new policy of quasi-public daycare and preschools. In the future, public, quasi-public, and non-profit child care, together with related individuals, civic groups and private-sector institutions, will continue to receive guidance and encouragement.
Minister without Portfolio Lin Wan-i added further detail to the three principal measures of the policy. The first involves increasing the percentage of child care facilities that are publicly operated. The second is a mechanism to create quasi-public preschools, which calls for select private-sector child care centers to contract with the government to enroll children at a government-subsidized price based on parent income, and the government subsidies will be paid directly to preschools. The third measure is the expansion of subsidies paid to parents to help cover the costs of child-rearing. The amount will also be based on need, with no condition that parents must be employed. The scope will also be broadened to cover children aged 4 years and younger, up from the current 2 year cutoff. Finally, families with three or more children will qualify for added subsidies.