According to the Ministry of the Interior, the number of centenarians in Taiwan has increased by 452, a sharp rise of 30 percent, moving from 1,489 last year to 1,941 this year. Yet, the size of households continues to shrink as Taiwan’s society ages, reported Taiwan Panorama.
The figures of the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) show that there are currently 7.41 million households in Taiwan. The largest type is a family consisting of a father, mother, and their unmarried children, accounting for 35.8 percent of all households. Though still the highest segment, it is 5.7 percent less than 10 years ago. The second largest type is one of single individuals, now accounting for 22 percent of households, and the third largest is of families consisting of a husband and wife only, accounting for 11 percent. Couples now outnumber traditional families of grandparents, parents and children living under the same roof (10.9 percent).
The first important trend to note is that the number of large households is shrinking. Those with five people or more accounted for only 8.7 percent of the total, while those with six or more accounted for just 7.3 percent. In 1990, the average household had four people, but that figure fell to 3.3 by 2000, and slid to just 3 in 2010.
Taiwan Panorama pointed out the second most prominent trend is the growth in the number of single-parent families. Numbering 560,000, single-parent households currently account for only 7.6 percent of all households, but that proportion has grown by 50 percent over the last decade. The increase in single-mother households is particularly pronounced, from 65 percent a decade ago to 74 percent of households of this type.
The growth in single-parent families as a whole is being driven by higher divorce rates and a lower percentage of adults getting married. Taiwan currently has the highest divorce rate in Asia. The previous generation’s high rate of separation and divorce rates have made today’s young people even more leery of matrimony, reported Taiwan Panorama.
This is reflected in the third major shift seen in household structure – the growing proportion of single-person households. According to the DGBAS, the figure of unmarried individuals in the age range 30-34 reached 41 percent in 2010, while it was 27 percent in 2000.
Lin Wan-I, a professor at National Taiwan University, said that the act of marriage traditionally implies a commitment to carrying on the family line. But many young people worry about their ability to raise kids and decide that they don’t want any.
He noted it is extremely difficult to reverse the trend toward single-hood and childlessness, which are worldwide phenomena. The only thing the Taiwanese government could do to reverse this trend is to lower the cost of having, rearing and educating children.
Lin added that Taiwanese people should look at marriage and childbearing separately, accepting children outside of wedlock, and treating such children without stigma. Most of the 20,000 children per year currently born out of wedlock in Taiwan are born to girls on the cusp of adulthood, while in Europe; it is largely adult women who are having children out of wedlock.
Taiwan needs to get over the notion that having a child out of wedlock is shameful and a terrible thing. Furthermore, Taiwan Panorama stressed the need to provide comprehensive parenting education and greater support to women who choose not to marry, but would like children.
By the year 2027, Taiwan’s young adults will be burdened by raising an elderly person or a child. Currently young adults account for 70 percent of the labor population, about 3.5 workers raising one person.
The United Daily News reported that the aging population of Taiwan is accelerating while fertility is declining. According to Lin, the key to slowing down the aging society is to increase the fertility rate. In 2016, Taiwan’s elderly population will outpace the juvenile population. That same year, Taiwan’s post-war baby boomers will turn 65, starting a wave of retirements. The senior population will reach 3.12 million, putting an additional social burden on young adults.