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Opinion

Expanding benefits for marriage and parenting

Taiwanese women are known for delaying marriage or seemingly choosing to stay single, depending on how you look at it. The average age of marriage for women in 2009 was 30 to 31. In 2010, 31 percent of women above the age of 15 were single, an all-time low for marriage, especially compared to the 7.3 percent of unmarried women in 2007.

The largely single status of Taiwan’s most popular female entertainers is also worth noting; if their chosen predicament is not a direct reflection of society, then it certainly serves as either affirmation or a consolation for the unhitched woman. Lin Chi-ling, top supermodel and considered one of the most beautiful women in Taiwan, turns 37 this year without an engagement announcement in sight. Pop Princess Jolin Tsai, despite her youthful appearance, is also pushing 30 and single. The same status goes for famed artists like A-mei (38), Vivian Hsu (36), Elva Hsiao (31) and many others.

On the other end of the public spectrum, both Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and former vice president Annette Lu are single. Both women voiced their desire to run for 2012 presidential elections, although Lu publicly dropped out of the DPP primaries Tuesday, citing her concern for the environment outweighing her need to win in an election. Chen Chu, the incumbent mayor of Kaohsiung, is entering her 60s and has never married.

Despite differences in their age, appearance and job description, these are altogether a group of successful and powerful women representing Taiwan. There have been enough studies and cliches on how advancing education and career impedes a woman’s personal life, although a cursory look at female leaders across the world shows most of them currently married or having attempted the act of matrimony at least once.

Just look at Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla Miranda, President of India Pratibha Patil, President of Brazil Dilma Vana Rousseff and of course, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and her famous spouse. Power and partnership does not seem mutually exclusive overseas.

The Bureau of Health Promotion under the Department of Health named delaying marriage as the main cause in Taiwan’s record low birthrate, the impact of which can be seen in empty pediatric wards, the declining number of nurseries, decreased kindergarten and elementary school enrollment and will very soon change the course of the nation’s future.

To make matters worse, Taiwan’s rapidly aging population has the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development predicting a population of zero growth by 2022, a mere 11 years from now. Project onto that, an increasing prevalence of erratic weather brought by climate change, and you have a perilous situation of unprecedented proportions.

Japan’s elderly population, one of the largest in the world, proved to be the hardest hit demographic in the current crisis. With continual power shortages, cramped shelters, freezing temperatures and little medicine, the elderly have become the most vulnerable and helpless after the series of disasters ― from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and its the deadly tsunami to the current nuclear reactor crisis.

Taiwan is already prepping for disaster, setting up earthquake warning systems in the ocean and updating nuclear emergency response methods, not only to save our existing population, but also, as the saying goes, to create a brighter future for “our children.” With all the current focus on reducing our carbon footprint, suspending nuclear power plants and transforming waste incinerators into bio-energy centers, the best the government has done to promote marriage and parenting is hand out NT$20,000 cash subsidies per child each month.

As the birthrate among married couples is much higher than those who never marry, instead of being pro-natalist, the government should be pro-marriage and consider finding suitable public spokespeople to promote the benefits of the age old institution and its essential role in society, especially in times of crisis.

(Editorial, The China Post (Taiwan))

(Asia News Network)
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