Taipei, In an effort to make affordable childcare more widely available, the government's childcare subsidy program will be expanded to cover all administrative divisions in Taiwan, effective from August, President Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday.
Taiwan's low birth rate has already become a national security issue, Tsai said during a tour of a childcare center in Taoyuan, stressing that the goal of the program will be to lighten the financial burden on parents and at the same time help improve access to childcare facilities for all families.
Under the program, parents receive a monthly babysitting or preschooling subsidy ranging between NT$2,500 and NT$10,000 for each child up to the age of 4.
The coverage of child-rearing allowances was introduced in August last year in all administrative divisions except for the six special municipalities Kaohsiung, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei and Taoyuan.
The government's "quasi-public system" policy will soon be expanded to cover all 22 cities, counties and municipalities from August, she said.
According to Tsai, the program will also cover subsidies for parents with children aged between 2 and 4 who cannot get into a public or semi-public private kindergarten.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said Tuesday that part of the nationwide program is also aimed at improving access to childcare facilities for preschool-age children at affordable rates, where parents will only have to pay NT$4,500 per month to send their children to private kindergartens that have agreed to be subsidized by the government.
The immediate plan will be to continue providing subsidies to private childcare centers as a way of reducing the cost for parents, Education Minister Pan Wen-chung said.
Also, by 2024, another goal will be to raise the number of public classes for preschoolers by 3,000, Pan said.
The ministry estimates that private childcare centers or kindergartens that have come to an agreement with the government will be able to accept roughly 227,000 children by 2024, he said, adding that with public institutions, the number could reach 500,000.
The education minister said that from Aug. 1, parents with children aged 2-4 who are not enrolled in a private or semi-public private preschool will be entitled to NT$2,500 per child per month, and NT$3,500 per month for the third child and after. To be eligible, parents must be below the 20 percent income tax bracket and one of them must be unemployed, according to the MOE.
Based on the revised subsidy plan announced by the education ministry Tuesday, tuition fees for private childcare centers that have made an agreement with the government will be capped at NT$11,200 per month for children aged below 2, up from NT$10,000 per month when it was first introduced last year.
The budget for the nationwide program has been allocated under a national infrastructure development program, with the government expected to spend NT$22.7 billion this year in an effort to boost the country's birth rate, according to the MOE.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel