Feature

Taiwan: Choosing between kids and a house

While the cost of housing isn’t the only reason Taiwanese families are so small, analysts agree that it’s “the main one,” said Tim Colebatch in The Age.

Tim Colebatch
The Age (Australia)

Taiwan’s housing crisis is turning into a population crisis, said Tim Colebatch. Investors across Asia who fled the stock markets because of the recession moved their money into real estate. Now, “young people have seen their dreams of home ownership evaporate as house prices boil.” Would-be home buyers—who call themselves “snails without shells”—have reacted “by scrapping the other big expense facing young couples: children.”

Taiwan’s fertility rate is the lowest in the world, at an average of 1.05 children per woman. While the cost of housing isn’t the only reason Taiwanese families are so small, analysts agree that it’s “the main one.” Unfortunately, Taiwan can’t just build more houses. It’s a small island, and existing buildings would have to be demolished to make way for bigger ones. Yet “ownership of those grimy old apartment blocks is fragmented among dozens of occupants and investors” who would have to be tracked down and bought out at great expense.

So the snails are left not only without shells, but without children to support them in their old age. By 2056, there will be just one worker for each retiree. If nothing changes, Taiwan, once an economic miracle, “will slowly become economically unviable.”

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