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June 23, 2017

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Parents creatively join hunt for subsidies

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The government recently noted increasing instances of parents trying different techniques in order to meet the standards to apply for a variety of government subsidies, with some parents even moving multiple times in order to qualify.

According to the Act of Assistance for Families in Hardship, women who are divorced, widowed or gave birth to children out of wedlock are allowed emergency life assistance subsidy of NT$30,000 per month; those having to single-handedly raise children or grandchildren under 18 years of age may receive 10 percent of the year's average minimum wage each month. "Many applicants know the ropes well when it comes to keeping themselves eligible as a 'family in hardship' to apply for the subsidies and 'taking advantage' of the government," said an unnamed staff handling the applications at Hsinchu City Government's Department of Social Affairs.

"(We) have to do this in order to live, so we applied for government subsidies," said a 56-year-old man living in Yunlin County with his mainland Chinese wife. Surnamed Wu, the man revealed that he had lost his job but has to feed his children; he started applying for the assistance subsidy when some friends suggested that he could feign a divorce to qualify as an applicant. The fake separation earned him an extra NT$1,904 and a residential rental subsidy of NT$4,000 each month.

We're Not Married — On Purpose

There are even cases of couples who conceived children out of wedlock intentionally, just to be able to apply for subsidies. "Some girls that are on subsidy gave birth to children with their boyfriends and refuse to get married in order to earn the assistance fees for single mothers. When the social workers visit and voice their suspicion, the girls would deny such intentions; it is hard to cancel their credentials without solid proof," said a social worker from the Chiayi City Social Affairs Bureau.

A case in Miaoli has drawn the attention of many social workers. A woman, who has been drawing government allowances for her children after her divorce, was reported by a suspicious social worker as the woman drove an expensive car and toted designer handbags. The reported woman later admitted that she had enough savings and was disqualified as a subsidy applicant.

In an estimate made by the Hsinchu Government's Department of Social Affairs, one out of every 20 or 30 applicants had forged their qualifications.

Ever-moving Parents

Local media outlets have also reported cases of "ever-moving parents" in different counties. A mother from Taoyuan County moved from one district to another as her destination offered a higher birth subsidy than the other districts and townships in Taoyuan. The woman was quoted as saying, "several thousand dollars for signing some papers, this is worth it."

Pingtung, at the southernmost tip of Taiwan, offers the heftiest birth subsidy in the whole country, a fact that had many couples re-registering their residencies in Pingtung; as many as 700 people moved there within the course of two years.

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