Officials in Taiwan say that Taiwanese need to get married sooner and have more kids.

The country’s youth should get married and bear children earlier to help counter a decline in the number of newborns, the Bureau of Health Promotion suggested yesterday.

Bureau Director Chao Kun-yu (趙坤郁) said the birth rate last year dropped to 1.12 percent, down 0.06 percentage points from 2004.

The rate has fallen by 33 percent since 2000, he said at a press conference.

Chao estimated that fewer than 200,000 babies may be born this year, adding that the country would face zero population growth by 2017, which could contribute to problems such as a shortage of workers and being able to address the long-term health care needs of the elderly.

This advice needs to be looked at in light of the fact that Taiwan has one of the world’s higher abortion rates, with some 250,000 potential humans being aborted annually — the peak month being September before the girls return to school. At least one study suggests upwards of 45% of women have had at least one abortion (the sample was enormous, 17,000, but the sample population consisted of women attending family planning services). Clearly if Taiwan could induce some of those women to have babies instead of aborting them, its population problem would be solved. Such incentives already exist…

Some regions offer incentives for giving birth, including Taipei, Hsinchu and Tainan cities, and Miaoli, Hsinchu, Tainan and Taitung counties.

The subsidies vary across the country, ranging from NT$2,000 (US$61) to NT$100,000 per birth.

Some areas such as Hsinchu City offer additional benefits for the second and third child.

The government would also need to improve adoption and pre-natal services and change attitudes toward pregnant students.

Of course, immigration would solve it rapidly as well. But Taiwan, although a very multicultural society, has not yet become conscious of itself as a multicultural state.

One problem not often mentioned in public discussions of demographics is the imbalanced between the sexes — there are 109 males born for every 100 females. Although it is illegal, there are clinics that will quietly sex the fetus and abort it if it is of the wrong (female) sex. At the moment Taiwan is able to import females at will, so it does not seem to be a problem.

That same day the Taipei Times juxtaposed the article on low birth rates with a survey of attitudes toward marriage:

Nearly 30 percent of people aged between 20 and 39 would rather stay single all their lives than get married, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the Bureau of Health Promotion.

Although the reasons for opting to remain single varied, most of the men, or 35.9 percent in that age group, cited “economic causes” as the major reason keeping them from marriage, the poll found.

The poll, conducted by telephone in September last year, also found that most women, or 21.9 percent, when asked for the main reason for not marrying, said that marriage would “compromise their single life.”

Other reasons for not opting for marriage included celibacy, that they had not met their Mr or Ms Right, and that “marriage involves too much trouble.”

The poll found that 58.2 percent of the men and women would like to get married if they had a suitable partner.

This figure was 3.3 percentage points lower than the figure from ia similar poll that was conducted in 2004.

All in all, marriage is less important for the young than it used to be. Of my adult night class students, generally people in their mid-20s, only a handful are married.