Taiwan has long had an issue with low birth rates, consistently ranking as one of the lowest in the world. This trend has continued until now. Recent data shows that the most recent 12 year period has seen around a 20 percent drop in births compared with data from the 12 year period previous.

The data from the pervious period, 1986 to 1997, showed a total births of more than 3.8 million. Most recently, from 2010 to 2021, this total was 2.296 million births. This is a significant drop in new births and raises questions about why increasing numbers of Taiwanese are having less children, or no children at all.

Recent polling showed that many don’t desire to have children. 30 percent of unmarred people reported not wishing to give birth and 54 percent of married individuals responded that they do not wish to have children. The majority of people not desiring to have children responded that this is because they are unable to afford the expenses associated with childrearing, the primary of which is connected to the exploding price of housing in Taiwan.

Recent data from the Taiwan Social Survey and Information Service Company (台灣社會調查所) released data last year suggesting that while those that are married aren’t apposed to giving birth in general, they were apprehensive to have multiple children and it seems the reasons for this anxiety is economic in nature.

The survey sampled Taiwanese people by telephone. The people interviewed were aged 20 to 39. In the survey there were 1,068 valid samples and the survey achieved a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

Of those that responded, 67 percent were unmarried and 33 were married. Those that were married did respond that 78 percent had given birth to at least one child. However, of those, 70 percent had only given birth to one child, not enough to maintain the current population numbers. As high as 87 percent of those that already had one child stated that they were not willing to have a second child. 30 percent that responded had given birth to two children.

Of the people that responded to the survey that were married but currently have no children, the majority are not currently willing to have children. Of respondents, 54 percent says that they have no plans to have kids. Looking at those that said they currently refuse to have children, 58 percent stated the reason for this was economic. The biggest economic reasons are that people are not able to purchase their own house, 59 percent of men in this category responded as such and 65 percent of men said that they held anxiety about not being able to financial responsibility associated with the costs of raising a child. Women for their part seem to be similarly concerned as 50 percent responded that they were concerned with living comfortably.

Those that were unmarried also stated similar feelings. Respondents that planned to get married said that after doing so they would like to have chidden at a rate of just over 62 percent. Around 30 percent said that they did not plan to have kids at all. The reasons for their decision not to have children were that they cannot afford the costs associated with raising a child, at 61 percent, and that they couldn’t afford a house at 44 percent.

The housing issue seems to be a particularly prominent one amongst Taiwanese. Just as they have in countries around the world, housing prices in Taiwan have been exploding. Many have suggested that that there should be checks on the rich squatting on multiple houses that they never use while average workers are forced to rent their entire lives. Wages are also a big issue in Taiwan. To be sure, the minimum wage has been raised by the Tsai administration almost every year over the past few years, however these increases often do not even cancel out rising inflation, still resulting in an effective pay cut for workers.

If Taiwan truly wants to increase its birthrate, it is going to have to take real action to assuage worries of young people. It must actually create policies that will help working class people provide for themselves and their families. If people don’t wish to have children that is of course ok, but if people wish to have children and can’t for fear of financial destitute even when they work a full-time job, then our society is deeply flawed.