Taiwan turning to assisted reproduction subsidies to boost fertility
Central News Agency
2014-08-27 10:56 PM
Taipei, Aug. 27 (CNA) Taiwan will begin a three-stage subsidy program to reduce the financial burden of couples seeking to have children through assisted reproduction methods starting next year, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday. Minister Chiu Wen-ta said in a statement that the program is part of a comprehensive policy to establish "a friendly birth and child-raising environment" in Taiwan, which is battling against one of the world's lowest fertility rates. The first stage of the ministry's new program will be implemented beginning early next year. It targets low-income couples, who will be entitled to a government subsidy of up to NT$100,000 (US$3,345) a year to seek assisted reproduction therapies like in vitro fertilization or "test tube babies." That round is expected to benefit 391 people and increase the number of newborns by just 143, but that small number would represent an increase in the birthrate of 0.06 percent, according to figures from the ministry's Health Promotion Administration (HPA). The program will then be expanded in 2016 with subsidies to couples earning a yearly household income less than 70 percent the national average, or below NT$770,000. The final stage in 2017 will extend to cover subsidizes to households with a yearly income below 130 percent the national average, or less than NT$1.42 million. The HPA is banking on the program to help raise the fertility rate from 1.055 child per woman at childbearing age, the figure this year, to 1.1 by the year 2017. HPA Director-General Chiou Shu-ti said that the new program includes regulations that guarantee the quality of assisted reproduction treatments, including methods that restrict the number of implanted embryos to prevent multiple births, premature births and other complications. The program was proposed after the HPA noted the connection between the low fertility rate and the tendency among people today to get married and give birth at a later age -- factors that contribute to infertility. Chiou said the administration has found an increase in couples seeking to bear children through assisted means, she added, citing statistics that show the number of newborns through such methods grew from 2,317 (or 0.9 percent of the 271,450 total births) in 1998 to 5,825 (2.5 percent of 229,481 births) in 2012. Taiwan's total fertility rate -- the number of children per woman over the course of her life -- dropped to 1.065 in 2013 from 1.27 the previous year. A United Nations report in 2013 on fertility patterns placed Taiwan last among 193 countries. This year's World Factbook, published by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, ranked Taiwan third from the bottom of 224 countries with a total fertility rate of 1.11, ahead of only Macau (0.93) and Singapore (0.8). (By Lung Pei-ning and Elizabeth Hsu)
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