Womenomics: Rescuing the Super-low Fertility Rate with Gender Equality

Womenomics: Rescuing the Super-low Fertility Rate with Gender Equality
Photo Credit:Daniela Vladimirova CC BY ND 2.0

TNL International Edition is sponsored by Tutor A B C

By Wang Hui-jun

According to the Police Research Index Database (PRIDE), the elderly population will reach up to 40 percent by 2060. In the World Population Data Sheet issued by the US Population Reference Bureau, the birthrate in Taiwan ranks lowest in the world with an average fertility rate of 1.1.

Since President Ma came to office in 2008, he has pointed out that the low birth rate in Taiwan would lead to a national security crisis. But since 2008, the government has not proposed any effective policies to reverse the population structure. Is there any good way to solve the deteriorating demographic structure?

Breaking down the structure of labor in Taiwan

According to the Ministry of Labor, the labor force participation rate is around 60 percent and hasn’t shrunk since 1978. The employment rate of women broke 50 percent for the first time in 2012 and the gap of participating labor force between the two genders is minimizing. The labor force participation rate of women has grown by 10 percent since 1978, but the labor force participation rate of men dropped, making the total labor force participation rate remain the same.

In addition, the relatively low labor force participation rate in Taiwan might be related to the aging population. The retirement age in Taiwan is much earlier than Japan and Korea, similar to the condition in Europe. Though retirement age and personal wealth are closely related to the amount of savings, it still shows there is space for developing aged laborers in the Taiwanese society. Premier Mao Zhi-guo said in June, retiring by retirement age, gradual retirement and extending the retirement age are all issues worth of discussing.

Is womenomics applicable?

NARLabs suggests the government to draw on Japan’s womenomics to improve the employment rate of women in order to deal with the crisis of labor shortage in the future. Though the total birthrate of Japan has a better performance than Taiwan, the total population has decreased year after year since 2007, and that’s why Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe implemented policies to enhance the female employment rate. He attempted to take advantage of the female labor force to boost the economy.

Is womenomics applicable in Taiwan? First, the gap in the labor force participation rate between the two genders is 16.2 percent, higher than Hong Kong’s 7.4 percent and 12.5 percent in the US. There is not a large difference compared to Japan’s 21.6 percent and Korea’s 23 percent though.

The labor force participation rate of women in Taiwan is about 50 percent. The percentage of female work force aged 25 to 29 accounts for 90.3 percent. But then after women welcome their 30s, the percentage decreased drastically. The most possible reason lies in their incapability of keeping the balance between family and career after getting married at the age of 30.

In fact, other countries show a similar phenomenon, especially in Japan and Korea, where people aged 25 to 29 and 30 to 34 bear significant differences. But take a closer look at the distribution of the work force structure; both the Japanese and Korean emerge into an M-shape while in Taiwan it appears to be an inverted V.

After the age of 40, Japanese and Korean women reach another peak in their career, showing a certain percentage of women will get back into the job market after their family becomes stable. In contrast, the employment rate of women aged 50 in Taiwan is obviously lower than other countries and the situation gets more distinct for the women over 60.

The women’s employment trends show an upside down U-shape in Nordic countries such as Iceland, where most of the women work for their lifetime, no different from men. The main reason lies in the successful day-care and doubled-income family policy in these countries where women rarely quit their job just because of marriage or other short-term or long-term reasons.

We can observe the participant rate of women labor through age to understand the situation of female participation of the Taiwan labor market in the past few years. Starting from 1996, the female employment trend is becoming an upside-down V shape. Because the percentage of highly educated women is increasing, the employment rate of 15 to 24 year-olds is decreasing significantly. The employment rate of 25 to 29 year-olds has broken a new record and even reached 90 percent in 2013. Observing the structure of labor in Taiwan, there are two ways to fix the shortage in labor. One is to improve the phenomenon of 30-year-old women leaving their careers after marriage and the other is to defer the age of retirement.

To women: don’t run the marathon with one leg!

Kathy Matsui, chief Japan strategist for Goldman Sachs, has brought up womenomics reports since 1999. She says that the reason Japan facing an economic slump is it uses only one leg to run in the marathon, but it should start to make best use of the most ignored resources.

The gender difference in labor employment rate in Japan is up to 20 percent. Golden Sachs estimates if the proportion of women to involve in labor market can rise to the same level equal to men, it is likely its GDP can be increased by 12.5 percent.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an article titled “Release The Power of Womenomics,” and launched a series of women policies, including the main commitments of setting up 400,000 childcare centers in Tokyo by 2018 and increasing the number of female managers of enterprises by 30 percent by 2020.

The education Japanese women receive is almost the same as men, but their career performance is significantly different from their counterparts. According to the reports issued by the WEF (World Economic Forum), Japan ranks 104 among the 142 countries around the world, in which the sex ratio of managers in a company counts for 0.12, ranking 112 in the world; and the sex ratio in a congress is 0.09, ranking 126 in the world.

In fact, Japanese women quit their jobs not only because of family factors but also frustration in the workplace. Mariko Bandou, the author of the bestseller, “The Dignity of A Woman,” in Japan points out many women cannot feel the relations between high level jobs and high social statuses, so well-educated women would rather just marry a rich man.

David Pilling, columnist of the Financial Times, says Abe’s thoughts is relatively conservative. He says Japan needs to put the political capital into the legislative reformation and allow leaders to drive this innovation if they really want to empower the ability of women. Pilling also says that the enterprise and society need to change their attitude, otherwise it will be all talk.

As more and more women enter the work field, we can expect some changes in the traditional values of the Japanese society, which allows women in chief position to no longer be a special case but a habit.

Photo Credit:AP

Photo Credit:AP

Does high employment rate equal low fertility? Nordic countries prove not.

A well-known economic problem asks that with the development of economics, the national income has significantly improved. But why have people become reluctant to have children? Do people think children are inferior goods? (Inferior good is a type of good whose demand declines when income rises. Children are taken as a kind of good here.)

Carl Haub, the senior employer of the U.S. Population Reference Bureau, has analyzed the countries that have undergone a period of low fertility rate for a long time and categorized the trends of the total fertility of a country into three types: escalating, fair and declining. Taiwan, Japan and Korea declines and the rarely seen escalations appear in Nordic countries.

In 1990s, the total fertility rate of Nordic countries dropped to 1.5 percent but stepped up to 2 percent in 2013 due to the government’s long endeavor to assist families with double incomes to raise children.

The features of the policies of Nordic countries will be reversing the traditional concepts of men for work and women for raising kids into the new one of adult citizens participating in labor and the government raising kids for the citizens. Rights to derive public nursing and childcare can only be given under the circumstances that both parents are working. In addition, they set up full supplementary measures, including long periods of various parental leaves.

The successful population policy in Nordic countries depends on not only the organized care-taking system of the senior citizens and children, but also most importantly, the cultural value of pursuing justice and fairness in genders. According to the report regarding global sex differences issued in the global economic forum in 2014, the top five countries are respectively Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, which are all Nordic countries.

Gender equality allows Nordic countries to achieve the ideal of obtaining three highs: high education, high employment rate and high fertility rate.

Children are in fact not inferior goods. The very reason of the declining fertility rate lies in the increasing cost of raising a child. Traditionally, women spend more time taking care of family members.

According to research conducted by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, ROC, the number of Taiwanese women who quitted their job because of marriage in 2013 reached up to 1,201,000 people, leading to a female employee turnover rate of 26.81 percent. 55.98 percent of women who left their jobs did not resume to work.

With the development of women’s education, entering marriage and giving birth to a child will cost too much for an independent woman. More and more female choose to postpone pregnancy or to not have babies. Some even choose not to get married and leads to the phenomenon of high education, high employment rate and low fertility rate among the female citizens in Taiwan.

Therefore, to level up the fertility rate and lower the cost of raising a child becomes our priority. Because the current tax system in Taiwan cannot meet the conditions of promoting public nursing and childcare system like the Nordic countries, we can still connect the spirit of this system to the welfare and labor policies and adjust the deduction proportion in order to protect our financial system. In addition, we should struggle to break though the stereotype of gender roles, enhance women’s career status, free their family bounds and create an environment favorable for women to live in.

Photo Credit:Thomas sauzedde  CC BY ND 2.0

Photo Credit:Thomas sauzeddeCC BY ND 2.0

Early in 1995, the Taiwan Society of Woman called for the establishment of a comprehensive welfare country for all citizens, rather than this current extra relief institution and affiliation to the patriarchal capitalism.

An article issued by the Taiwan Society of Woman for feminist movement reads, “In the welfare country for all citizens, the traditional work distribution for females has become the main priorities promoted by national efforts, which are welfare services. Female citizens therefore become the main leaders in the society with stature and power, enhancing the strength of overall females and eventually cultivating the leaders of our country to see things in the feminist perspective. Therefore, the classical hierarchical relationships between men and women can be destroyed for a new era of equality and diversity to embark on.”

Since the demographic issue has already troubled national security, if we still refuse to forget old values, it will be difficult for our country to develop. So far 20 years has passed since the announcement was issued, how long will it take for Taiwan to accomplish the vision?

Translated by June
Edited by Olivia Yang