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Aging society, low birth rate 'challenges': MOE

TAIPEI -- An aging society and a falling birth rate are severe challenges facing Taiwan's efforts to nurture internationally competitive talent, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a policy white paper released yesterday.

The current methods of using educational resources must be adjusted, the MOE stated, underlining “transformation” and “breakthrough” in the Talent Cultivation White Paper, which outlines the ministry's comprehensive plans for developing talent over the next 10 years.

The white paper warns that the falling birth rate will heavily affect school enrollments around the country, as well as the country's future strength.

The number of newborns dropped from 326,000 in 1997 to 271,000 in 1998, meaning that there will be a 55,000 decline, or nearly 20 percent, in the number of university students in 2016.

Even if all the 1998 newborns pursue a university education, there will still be a drop of 19 percent compared with the 290,000 university freshmen this year, according to the white paper.

Moreover, the number of newborns further dropped to 167,000 in 2010, the policy paper adds.

And if the situation remains unchanged and society continues its current pace of aging that saw the number of people aged over 65 accounting for 13 percent of the total in 2013, a percentage that is estimated to rise to 20 percent in 2016, the total productivity of university graduates in 2028 will need to double that of this year's graduates to maintain the country's continued development, the white paper says.

In addition, globalization and a demand-supply imbalance that features a lack of workforce in the manufacturing sectors but high unemployment among people with higher education are also factors that will affect Taiwan's manpower structure, it notes.

To meet these challenges, the white paper proposes various strategies, including promoting lifetime learning, reforming the higher education system and pushing for cooperation between the industrial sector and schools.

The policy guidelines were produced after 10 months of discussion among scholars and experts invited by the MOE to draw up a new blueprint for the cultivation of talent and manpower in the next decade.

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