Birthrates are falling in many places around the world. As the Guardian article notes, this can be immensely positive to the health of the planet, possibly leading to reductions in the consumption of natural resources, resulting in decreases in pollution, whilst also alleviating burdens on wildlife and their habitats. At the same time, the decrease in national population sizes also provides the perfect opportunity for people to embrace less racist and intolerant approaches to immigration, as governments are forced to accept that in this globalised era, welcoming and integrating migrants is much more effective than treating them as second-class citizens by preventing them from assimilating into society, thus viewing them as nothing more than temporary labourers, or completely excluding them from ever gaining citizenship. After all, as examples in many different countries have shown, the precipitous decline in birthrates is not something that can be reversed or meaningfully controlled by government intervention. So why is Taiwan continuing in its futile efforts to boost the birthrate and now allocating NT$9.1 billion for this purpose?
Over the last decade, various subsidies, schemes and financial incentives have been offered by city, county and central governments to try to convince couples to have more children, but the net effect is still that Taiwan’s population is dropping, and the birthrate is too. This is because there are many factors that are leading to the global drop in births, ranging from pollution levels increasing infertility levels in men and women, to changing social norms and expectations, of which economic pressures are just one consideration. Therefore, throwing money at the issue is not going to address the long-term, structural and environmental causes.
While mandating that all employers provide paid maternity and paternity leave is surely something that is worthy of applauding as it will ease the burden on new parents, and prenatal screenings should already be subsidised under the National Health Insurance, how does allocating scarce funds to optional medical procedures such as IVF make sense when, as the Taipei Times article makes clear, even Taiwan’s statistics show that subsidies for these do not encourage parents to try to conceive? It seems to be a huge waste of money to offer “higher-income households” huge subsidies for IVF procedures; especially when those funds could be spent on much more pressing needs. As many other developed countries have proven, the most effective method for increasing a nation’s population and boosting its economy is by encouraging and welcoming immigrants. When will Taiwan wake up and smell the coffee, and stop frittering away the nation’s limited resources on white elephants like baby bonuses and subsidies for the rich?