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As China’s anxieties mount, Taiwan’s recruitment pool decreases

As China’s anxieties mount, Taiwan’s recruitment pool decreases

As China’s anxieties mount, Taiwan’s recruitment pool decreases

Taiwan makes military service mandatory for an extra year

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  • Taiwan’s defense gap is growing.
  • It can’t be solved by increasing spending or buying more weaponry.
  • The island democracy of 23.5 million faces a growing struggle to recruit enough young men to satisfy its military requirements.
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Taiwan’s defense gap is growing. It can’t be solved by increasing spending or buying more weaponry.

The island democracy of 23.5 million faces a growing struggle to recruit enough young men to satisfy its military requirements. Its Interior Ministry suggests the problem is at least partly attributable to its chronically low birth rate.

According to the ministry, Taiwan’s population declined for the first time in 2020, and a continuous drop in the youth population poses a “major issue” for the future.

Taiwan is trying to reinforce its defenses to resist a hypothetical invasion by China, whose ruling Communist Party has made increasingly belligerent statements about its resolve to “reunify” with the self-governed island – which it has never held – by force if necessary.

A new analysis by Taiwan’s National Development Council projects that by 2035 the island will have 20,000 fewer births per year than in 2021. By 2035, Taiwan would have the world’s lowest birth rate, the survey said.

Such estimates fuel a debate over whether the government should raise mandatory military service for young men.

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As of June this year, the island’s professional military force was 162,000, 7,000 fewer than the aim. All eligible men must serve four months as reservists.

Changing the mandatory service requirement would be a big U-turn for Taiwan, which had tried to reduce conscription and shortened it from 12 months in 2018. Taiwan’s Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng stated such preparations would be made public by the year’s end.

Some young students in Taiwan are opposed to the move and have expressed their frustrations on PTT, Taiwan’s version of Reddit, even if the general population supports it.

Most Taiwanese agreed with a proposal to lengthen the service period, according to a March poll. Only 17.8% of respondents opposed extending it to a year.

Experts say there’s no alternative.

Su Tzu-Yun, director of Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, estimated 110,000 men were eligible to join the military before 2016. Since then, he said, the number has dropped every year and could reach 74,000 by 2025.

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Su predicted the number of young adults available for Taiwanese military recruiting could shrink by a third in a decade.

He added, “This is our national security.” “Because of a shrinking population, we’re considering resuming conscription.

“China is a growing threat, so we need more firepower and men.”

Taiwan’s birth rate of 0.98 is well below the 2.1 needed for population stability, although it’s not unusual in East Asia.

South Korea’s birth rate decreased to 0.79 in November, while Japan’s touched 1.3 and mainland China’s 1.15.

Given Taiwan’s size and challenges, experts say the trend offers a particular problem for the military.

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Since August, when then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, China has become more assertive. Beijing undertook unprecedented military maneuvers surrounding Taiwan soon after she arrived.

The declining youth population might also imperil Taiwan’s economy, a pillar of the island’s security.

Taiwan’s GDP was $668.51 billion last year, according to the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Much of its economic weight derives from supplying semiconductor chips used in smartphones and computers.

Taiwan’s government has attempted initiatives to encourage births, with limited effectiveness.

It rewards parents with 5,000 Taiwan dollars (US$161) for their first baby and more for each additional one.

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Pregnant women can take seven days off for prenatal care since last year.

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