Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taiwan has world's lowest fertility rate


The Population Reference Bureau put out a report that garnered some attention in Taiwan today. It observes of the island's Total Fertility Rate (TFR):
Asia is projected to add the most people by mid-century, with an increase of 1.3 billion over its 2009 population of 4 billion. This population growth is anticipated despite substantial declines in birth rates in many Asian countries. Today, China and India account for nearly two-thirds of the region’s population, and in 2050 their share will only be slightly less. But it will be India that will grow substantially by 2050. China’s population size will decline well before 2050 if current projections hold true. Should China change its “one-child” policy, a different picture could emerge.

Asia is also home to several other countries with very low TFRs. Taiwan currently has the world’s lowest, at 1.0 children per woman, while South Korea has a TFR of 1.2. These countries have expressed concern over population decline and extreme aging in their societies. In Japan, the official population projection anticipates that 40 percent of the population could be 65 and older by 2050.
India to overtake China, too. A planet full of primate breeders, as if the world had no physical limits. A powerpoint presentation on population trends is also available, more focused on the US. The data sheet is here, note the geographic distribution of child poverty rates in the US (Red States, of course). According to their data, Taiwan's net rate of increase is just 0.2%, and it is expected the island's population will be 2 million less in 2050 if current trends continue. Of course, they will all be crowded on the tip of Yushan since the island will be underwater at that point....

Speaking more seriously, one wonders if this plummeting fertility rate represents the population bumping up against the limits of the local strategy of educating the heck out of their children, a strategy that has become increasingly expensive, perhaps too expensive to sustain. Or is it the fact that so many women are choosing not to get married, or to get married very late and have very few children? Or what? Inquiring minds want to know...

Kudos to PRB: none of this "Taiwan, province of China" bullshit.
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20 comments:

Thoth Harris said...

I think, first of all, everyone is to busy to get into relationships. Women are working, men are working, everybody's working.

What is most obvious, but is never mentioned in the context of population growth, etc., is the sociability factor. The fact that men are not really going too much out of their way to get into relationships with women (as a long-term goal) naturally bodes very badly for family planning (in terms of having kids, as opposed to prevention, etc.).

I have talked to a good deal of men who say they want to get married and have kids, but are just not there yet. The culture here is very funny. But the business/working culture doesn't seem to have necessarily made the economy better than forty years ago, or anything. The culture has just insulated people- from each other, and from the world.

Stephen A. Nelson said...

No "Taiwan, province of China" crap.

But Michael calls Taiwan an "island" instead of a "country".

I always give BBC and Reuters hacks a hard time for this dimmunitive, so I'm not letting you off the hook.

Next you'll be referring to "Taiwan authorities" instead of "Taiwan's government - and "Taiwan leader" instead of "Taiwan President"

Although, in Ma's case, such reference may merely be prophetic.

Anonymous said...

What the hell? Why is it called fertility rate and not birth rate? They are really measuring how virile the sperm/eggs are?

friend gram said...

To say "fertility" is a bit misleading, though of course that's the standard statistical heading. I just googled this statistic that put 42,000 abortions vs. 280,000 births for 1999, i.e. roughly one of eight. I'm not really sure about this site, but it credits the data to the DGBAS and based on other reports I've seen, these kinds of numbers don't seem unreasonable.

Dixteel said...

Marriage is still going on I am sure, the problem is on people's desire to have children.

The fact might be that Taiwan's population density are just too high in the developed area (such as cities), where the jobs are. This means expensive rent and small living space. For working young couples, this represent extra challenges.

And this issues is not just unique to Taiwan probably. Low fertility rate also occurs in France and Japan before. However, I think the cause of this issue in each country is different probably.

Maybe what Taiwan needs to do is to create an environment that is friendlier in raising babies etc. So the issue might actually be a big combination of different areas that include traffic, urban development, higher average salary (or some tax cut for the second kid etc) and education system.

It might be alright if Taiwan's population goes down gradually a bit though...however, if it is a drastic decline it would be a major concern.

English Teacher Guy said...

I know that it's not good for economics, but Taiwan is already very crowded and the world has too many people. Lowest fertility? So be it.

Anonymous said...

I know a low birth rate is not good for economics, but Taiwan is already a very crowded place and the world does not need more people right now. World's lowest fertility rate? So be it.

Thomas said...

The Chinese example always amazes me seem to forget to include the collapse of the working age population in their China rise formulas. This will start slowly in about 5 to 10 years and will continue for another two decades. The low- to mid-quality export manufacturing model's days are numbered, but if this crisis showed anything it showed that the Chinese are not yet willing to abandon that model, which will be increasingly expensive as workers become more scarce and family expenditures on aged relatives increase. Ten more years of development might change their minds.

Readin said...

Sexual values change so that sex outside marriage becomes the norm, marriage becomes less common. So as the old saying goes, why buy the cow if the milk is free? Without marriage, women naturally feel less willing to have children.

Culture has also changed to become more anti-woman in that too many people no longer value the traditional feminine roles of raising children. Because of this many women feel pressured to build a career if they want to be respected. But by the time they've built a career, they find that they're no longer considered good candidates for marriage (men like women young) and they also find that they are less fertile and have a harder time conceiving.

Thoth Harris says "I have talked to a good deal of men who say they want to get married and have kids, but are just not there yet." Of course they're not "there" yet, they're too busy having fun sleeping around with loose women.

The education Michael mentioned also plays a role with many people unwilling to have more children due to the cost of educating them.

I've also heard and read that in Taiwan the demands placed on women who marry by their husbands and in-laws are pretty difficult to meet, giving women another reason to delay marriage.

Sadly for them it isn't until later after the prime reproductive years that they realize how badly they want children.

Michael Turton said...

But Michael calls Taiwan an "island" instead of a "country".

It would be hideous style to keep repeating the same two referents over and overa gain.

Carlos said...

I have a different take based on my time in Taiwan - a general lack of happiness and optimism. Too many marriages are loveless and unhappy, and too many parents' lives are just work and sleep drudgery.

Anonymous said...

It's not a slight decline people! This is a ticking time bomb! Michael has sounded the siren before. Population decline isn't the problem in Taiwan because increased longevity hides the true extent of the problem. The number of kids each year has basically been cut to a third to half of what it used to be. We need a bar graph of the population by year born...

Raj said...

People need to get past this "we need more babies" mentality. No, you need to force people to work longer. Penalise them for drawing down their pensions before 65 or indeed 70. It used to be the case that pensions were given to people who outlived the average life expectancy, not before they hit it.

Once you do that you stabilise the pension situation. Then you have more money free to bring in child-friendly policies. Though there are some things you can do anyway like flexible working practices.

English Teacher Guy said...

lots of the marriages in Taiwan are coerced, and so are the pregnancies. If there is less -much less- of that going around, then great

Anonymous said...

If we want to live in a sustainable world, we have to cut down on this crazy idea of population growth.

The over-consumption of resources, the instability of state assets/resources ('dear Mainland' always a willing buyer) and the current social problems.

If you want my opinion, I love my non-existent children too much for them to live in a vacuous world and to tend to my ageing needs. As for living in Taiwan, there's garbage that is our political system. All that self-promotion of leaders and parties (both sides)... Less on diplomatic relations and more on local action, please.

You can see why fertility is the last thing on my mind for the moment.

An Overseas Born Taiwanese Twenty-something

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Should China change its 'one-child' policy, a different picture could emerge."

Maybe not. As the standard of living increases, the need for kids as an insurance policy for old-age decreases. Plus people busy working just don't have the time. I would think this goes for India as well.

Taiwan going to have to consider its immigration policies if it wants to maintain a healthy 2.something population growth. Or, maybe a shrinking population is just the thing for an overpopulated / environmentally degraded island.

Oh, I know! After Ma fulfills his promise of 3% unemployment, 6% GDP and US$30,000 in salaries for all, he can get this sorted out.

Max said...

What is the purpose of life? In Taiwan, how many young people, between 25-35, have to work 10-12 hours per day and fight for the low wage and their careers? Family life becomes the luxurious item for many. Having said that, the wage hasn't increased comparing to 10 years ago. The inflation is up almost each year and affordable housing is long gone. If the parents feel insecure they certainly will not want to bring new life into the world and be responsible for it.

readin said...

One thing Taiwan could do to become more parent-friendly is pass and enforce laws about making buildings and sidewalks handicap-friendly. The same kind of gradual inclines vs stairs that make for wheelchair access also help with strollers and perambulators.

readin said...

For the benefit of future earth and its inhabitants, we need more people from cultures where the values tend to lead toward freedom, peace, and prosperity. Taiwan has shown a tendency toward all three.

TicoExpat said...

As long as her in taiwan they do not get all Singaporean on us and restrict foreigner immigration so they will not outnumber locals...

Wait, they already do that. And we have a prez that admires/copies Singapore's policies...

Rats.