Taiwan's female labor participation rate is lower than that of Japan and South Korea? Solve the contemporary fertility dilemma and stop leaving women alone with responsibilities and risks!
Text | Yishin
- In 2017, financial media reported that in order not to affect her daily work, a pregnant mother informed her supervisor of her pregnancy as soon as possible. Unexpectedly, the supervisor responded that "after you give birth, go to 24-hour babycare", and was even hinted that if you go to work after maternity leave, "give me attention" in the future.
- In 2019, news reported that a 40-year-old pregnant mother was about to ask the company for maternity leave before giving birth, but was required by the company to go to the scene to fill out the fake form in person. Although he was able to be represented by relatives after several communications, he was frequently harassed by his supervisor, and even harassed by phone calls, not wanting his soon-to-be-born mother to take maternity leave.
- In the 2021 forum, a working woman was demoted by her supervisor because she was pregnant and turned from supervisor to assistant because the company believed that a pregnant woman was not up to the job.
- In the 2023 forum message, the same woman in an administrative position in a company was interviewed by her supervisor when she found out that she was pregnant after one year of employment. The reason is that women will not be able to withstand the pressure of work after pregnancy, and subsequent maternity leave and childcare leave will also affect the progress of work, and they are forced to quit three times and twice.
According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of the Interior, only 138,986 newborns remained in Taiwan in 2022, a record low, while the number of newborns in January 2023 was 10,948, more than 2,000 fewer than the same period of the previous year.
From the central to the local level, whenever elections approach, they use the slogan that the birth rate is a national security issue, and they have vowed that they will do their best to promote social welfare and preferential conditions in an attempt to solve the problem of declining birthrate.
However, from the policies proposed by the mayors of Liudu in 2022 on child-rearing issues, it can be found that most of the candidates have focused on "raising fertility rate" on childcare allowance, early childhood education software and hardware addition, etc., with strengthening "external conditions" as the main policy objectives, including:
- Increase the number of classes in public kindergarten and non-profit kindergartens
- Provide birth incentives or subsidies
- Strengthen childcare and parent-child public construction (e.g. men's and women's toilet changing tables, parent-child rest areas, in-school parenting, etc.)
- Invest in teacher training and reduce the teacher-student ratio
It is undeniable that the lack of resources for childcare and early childhood education, as well as the general economic burden caused by low wages and high housing prices, are the key factors affecting the decision of contemporary families to "give birth or not".
However, under these obvious issues, there are also hidden interests and conflicts between women's "legitimate age" and "self-practice". So far, few important candidates and key authorities have proposed a corresponding solution to this.
Is the fact that contemporary women do not give birth only to such a simple and visible factor that "the external environment does not allow"?
In addition to shouting "why don't you give you money and not give birth", "women already have more choices than before", and "getting married and having children does not mean giving up the workplace", there are more structural problems; After contemporary women are "given more choices", there are still many antecedents that have not yet been solved by the times that continue to play a role in their lives, forming more complex and entangled consequences.
Not "How exactly are you willing to give birth", but "How can we face it together"?
The myth of the optimal childbearing age and the influence of traditional social values have led to women's greater anxiety and urgency about life stages, and many excellent working women are forced to be distracted at the age of 30. A woman who "only has a career and no family" seems to have to face the question of "not being a really good and happy woman".
It can be imagined that a woman who is good, has dreams and hopes, and longs for self-actualization, who has finally survived the trials of the first workplace, always has one more hurdle than men when she is about to reach the first career turning point in her life: she seems to have to start facing the choice between "fighting for a career (or more broadly self-practice)" and "marriage and birth".
And most of the results of the decision, we have also seen:
According to Taiwan's labor participation rate data in the past 20 years, women aged 25 to 29 have the highest labor participation rate, and even reached a high employment rate of 90% in 2019. Combined with the fact that there is no need for military service, women's labour force participation rate is even higher than that of men during this period.
However, by the age of 30, the female labor force rate gradually declines. Faced with the growing demand for marriage, childbirth, and elder care, the female labor participation rate has dropped by nearly 20 percentage points within 10 years, and even after the age of 35, the female labor participation rate is far lower than that of advanced Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea.
Therefore, when we talk about "low fertility", it should not be just a crude and thin question such as "how do you want to give birth?" but a question of "how do we create a friendly environment where women can become mothers while still maintaining themselves".
Among them, the government, enterprises, families, and society are all participants, and each link will affect how a woman chooses her life.
Isn't becoming a mother asking me to give up space for freedom?
The Labor Code Law guarantees that women may not work overtime at night, apply for a change of job, or be dismissed or discriminated against during pregnancy leave.
However, the actual law enforcers are "people", and with more than 80% of male leaders, it is difficult to predict whether the actual workplace, family and society are ready to give women a fully fair environment for development.
According to the Taiwan Child Welfare Federation's survey of non-childbearing men and women aged 25 to 45, 38.6% of men have no plans to have children, and 46.4% of women do not want to have children.
Among them, the vast majority of men's "reasons why they do not want to have children" are external factors, including "poor overall social environment", "unable to give children an ideal living state", "economic impermissibility", and "no legitimate birth partner"; The reasons why women do not have children are "not wanting their existing freedoms to be affected (55.2%)", "not being able to give children an ideal living situation (53.7%)", and "the overall social environment is not good (50.2%)".
On the other hand, from the "Marriage and Childbirth Survey in Taiwan and Fujian" conducted by the Health Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior in 2022, it can also be found that more than 50% of those who are married but have not had children still have no plans to have children, of which 58% are trapped by economic factors.
Further investigation found that up to 60% of men were anxious about "not having a house" and "not being able to support the expenses of raising children"; More than half of women value the ability to improve or maintain their existing quality of life and freedom.
From the above questionnaire results and the actual situation, it can be seen that many working women are likely to face "the same 24 hours but have to bear more diverse tasks and responsibilities" after giving birth, and women are also responsible for postpartum physiological changes and most of the pressure of childcare and care when the existing work cannot be more flexibly adjusted and adapted.
In reality, restrictions on freedom are almost inevitable. This shows that today's workplace and family environment is still difficult to provide more flexible and inclusive conditions for working women after childbirth: "If I cannot meet the prenatal output and level, and cannot fully meet the requirements of society for a mother, then I am an imperfect woman and a mother who is not perfect."
It can be seen that what the Law and the Policy cannot solve is women's fear of self-destruction.
For women, giving birth in wedlock still means to some extent the transfer of freedom; The neglect of the meaning of motherhood for many years has also brought stay-at-home mothers under severe scrutiny by society and family. If you do not pay attention to the achievements, but still show tolerance and selflessness, the subsequent return to the workplace will be ignored and hindered, women pinching their fingers, having children can be described as harmful but not beneficial.
A woman who wants to think about childbearing must not only be self-sufficient, financially independent, but also be the perfect mother. Under the blow of the two, the vast majority of women, especially women in the workplace, are trapped in the so-called "Barbie dilemma", and are required to be perfect in all aspects, but it seems that they can never do it...
Under these premises, society should stop thinking that "maternal love can solve everything"; Women who truly love their children and desire to have children in wedlock should no longer hold the mood of "gritting their teeth and taking responsibility for their own decisions".
Women should have more choices and imaginations on the issue of "birth or not", and should also receive more support from enterprises, society and families, and jointly pay attention to internal costs in addition to external factors (including policies, regulations, and hardware), so as to develop more space and new logic.
Break down role definitions and treat parents as one
Now we should discuss how a working woman can get enough support from the workplace, family, and society to transcend biological and social inequalities, and be able to develop and choose in life without worrying about childbearing and taking risks alone.
Based on this, we can also see the continuous iteration of policies and regulations. Many companies are beginning to pay attention to flexible working hours, planning childcare facilities and benefits, and encouraging male colleagues to apply for paternity and parental leave, giving pregnant women greater empathy and support at work.
Even so, however, we are well aware that the situation is far from adequate. When women in modern society really have the choice of "having children in wedlock", we need to ensure that there is no proviso behind this choice, and that women can see that behind each road, there are multiple possibilities, and no road is limited.
When a woman chooses "I want to give birth", she can feel supported, know that her life has a new development, and understand that even if each choice has risks and challenges, it is not a lifelong gamble; When a woman chooses "I don't give birth," it is not driven by fear and given up after weighing, but quite fairly, blessed by choice.
Either way, both parties in a marriage relationship can realize the resources they need to bet on each other and the results they can create together. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the home also needs to be valued, and it should be the starting point for everything.
When a woman considers having a legitimate child in a two-person family, she can focus more on "will" rather than "obligation", and the partner can feel the power that he can exert in the process. Transparent communication, sharing emotions, perceiving each other's difficulties, accommodating the need for mutual help or confiding in different genders... all these can be a manifestation of DEI in the home.
In the Japanese drama "Monthly Wife", there is a dialogue like this:
Ping Kuang: "Regarding the child, I will do my best to help you, please let me know if you need anything!"
Shikuri: That's not right. What do you mean to help me?"
Ping Kuang: "Huh? Just to do you a favor..."
Shikuri: "Is this help?" Aren't we all going to be parents together? I was also pregnant for the first time, and I didn't know much about anything and felt very uneasy. But do I have to learn on my own and then be responsible for giving you instructions? Isn't that how husband and wife should be studying together and becoming parents together?"
The reverse is true for men. In the Japanese drama "Monthly Salary Wife", when Hira Kuang's father heard the news of Shili's pregnancy, he started this conversation with his son:
Ping Kuang's father: "The more family members there are, the heavier the responsibilities of the representative will become, and as the pillar of the family, you must bear more responsibilities."
Ping Kuang: "Of course I will be responsible, but will the phrase "pillar of the pillar" be too outdated? Our family now lives in an apartment made of reinforced concrete, and there is no need for the so-called top beams."
Deconstructing the family, it no longer requires female sacrifice, nor does it need men as "pillars".
With the "family" as a unit, reorganization and placement, the partner is more like a life partner, a partner who wants to work together for a lifetime, and there is no one who gives up more and who cooperates less, but in the balance between the two, the heart of "I work harder for you to keep yourself" and the consensus of "no one's sacrifice should be".
The first step is to start with the reform of "home", let the safety net extend from the closest people, and we hope that one day, the world can create more diverse scripts for women because of communion, and more possibilities to become "fathers" and "mothers".