TAIWAN (AFP) - Taiwan's population shrank for the first time ever in 2020, government data showed on Friday (Jan 8), as the island faces a burgeoning demographic crisis similar to that affecting South Korea and Japan.
Births last year plunged to 165,000, down 7 per cent from 2019. Deaths also overtook births for the first time, pushing the island's overall population down 0.2 per cent to 23.56 million, the interior ministry said.
Taiwan's birth rate has been falling continuously since 2000, a period where wages have remained stubbornly stagnant.
Demographers say Taiwanese women are increasingly getting married at an older age, opting for smaller families or choosing to stay single.
Rising living expenses and insufficient childcare support have also forced some working women to postpone plans to enter motherhood.
The rapidly ageing population has sparked concerns the island's economy will suffer from a declining workforce.
The previous record low was 166,000 babies born in 2010 - the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac, when births typically fall because of many taboos associated with the sign.
The Year of the Dragon - next due in 2024 - is considered the most auspicious in the Chinese zodiac and usually sees a spike in births.
In 2019, Taiwan's birth rate was the second-lowest in the world after South Korea, where the population also fell for the first time in 2020.
Experts say there are multiple causes for the phenomenon in South Korea, including the expense of child-rearing and soaring property prices, coupled with a notoriously competitive society that makes well-paid jobs hard to get.
Japan first registered a population decline back in 2011.
Some countries are bracing for a spike in annual deaths for 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Taiwan is one of the few places to have successfully halted the virus and kept it away with just eight recorded deaths and 825 infections.
The number of deaths Taiwan recorded in 2020 was 173,156, a 1.8 per cent drop from a year earlier.