The big demographic news out of Asia recently has been the “unstoppable” demographic decline that China is about to undergo thanks to decades of its one-child policy. But just across the Taiwan Strait, the other China is also struggling with chronically low birthrates and population growth. The figures for 2017-2018 show that for the first time, the Taiwanese population grew at less than one-tenth of one per cent: 0.08 per cent to be precise.
In absolute terms, this represents a growth in population of 18,000 people. The main reason for this low population growth rate was the low birth rate (Taiwan has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world at only 1.1 children per woman) which saw more Taiwanese dying than being born. This super-low birth rate is due to delayed marriages among the Taiwanese and economic barriers to having children – paid maternity leave is only for two months and, although unpaid parental leave is available, businesses are generally unsupportive of women who take it. Thus, families are faced with either relying on grandparents or expensive daycare to look after their children while the parents go back to work. This makes having children, or more children, economically difficult if not impossible.
The population overall is thus only being sustained (and marginally increased) by immigration: largely from South East Asian countries – the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Looking at natural growth only then, the Taiwanese population is in the same situation as China’s will be in a few years: in decline.