TAIPEI ? The lowest birth rate in the world and a rapidly ageing society could lead to a spate of social problems in Taiwan, a report cited the Taiwanese health minister as saying Saturday.
In a population of 23 million, just 1.07 children are born per woman in Taiwan, even lower than Japan's 1.57, the United Daily News quoted Yaung Chih-liang as saying.
"This is a tragic society," Yaung said. "There is no war or other major disasters in Taiwan but the birth rate is plummeting so fast. It's unseen in other countries."
Taiwan is likely to face more social problems, such as lack of care for the elderly and younger people committing suicides because of economic pressure, he warned.
"Many people choose to have a pet over having children," Yaung said, adding that a growing number of baby shops have been going out of business in recent years while pet stores are mushrooming.
Education officials have warned that more than one in three Taiwanese colleges could be forced to close by 2021 because of a shortage of students.
Taiwan's government has been offering various incentives in an unsuccessful bid to boost fertility rates amid growing concerns that a severe manpower shortage will trigger more social and economic woes.
Health authorities have said the declining birth rate was because many women were choosing to marry at a later age or to stay single.