State-run dating service is Taiwan's solution to ageing society

Taiwan hopes to tackle the most pressing of first-world problems through increased government intervention in people's love lives.
Taiwan hopes to tackle the most pressing of first-world problems through increased government intervention in people's love lives.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI (BLOOMBERG) - Taiwan hopes to tackle the most pressing of first-world problems through increased government intervention in people's love lives.

The interior ministry says it will organise more official match-making events in 2018 as part of a push to reverse a rapid ageing of Taiwan's 24 million people.

The island recorded more deaths than births in March for a second straight month, and government data released on Tuesday (April 10) show that Taiwan officially became an "aged society" last month (March), with more than 14 per cent of the population aged 65 or older.

Only Japan, where 28 per cent are in the 65-and-over club, has a higher proportion of elderly people in East Asia.

Government-sponsored dating events are just one of a series of measures aimed at addressing the problem in Taiwan, where long work hours, stagnant wages and a lack of affordable housing and child care are the main obstacles couples face when considering having children.

Officials are also moving to provide more social housing for young people and promoting immigration as a way to tilt the population back to youth.

"We're giving singles the opportunity to meet," Ms Jair Lan-pin, deputy head of Taiwan's department of civil affairs, said in an interview. "Some go on to get married and invite the minister to their weddings."

The interior ministry - which advertises matchmaking events on a website filled with pictures of flowers and statues holding hands - first started organising them in 2010. Between 2011 and 2012, 36 couples got married after meeting at these events, according to a ministry statement.

But sociologist Yang Wen-shan at Taipei-based Academia Sinica is not optimistic. "Because Taiwan is small and densely populated, the government never saw slowing population growth as a problem. The government recognised this problem too late."