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Why Has Fertility Declined to a Very Low Level in Taiwan?

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  • Full or part time
    Prof H Kulu
    Prof E Lin
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

In the second half of the 20th century Taiwan experienced significant demographic changes. The average number of children per woman, measured by the total fertility rate (TFR), declined from 7.1 in 1951 to 4.0 in 1970 to 1.8 in 1996; meanwhile, the life expectancy increased from 54.0 in 1950 to 76.5 in 2000 (National Statistics of Taiwan 2014). With a high life expectancy and a below-replacement-level fertility, Taiwan resembled any other industrialised country by the end of the 20th century. While fertility levels in many industrial countries (e.g. UK) increased in the first decade of the 21st century, Taiwanese society witnessed a significant fertility decline after two decades of stable fertility levels; the TFR decreased from 1.7 in 2000 to as low as 0.9 in 2010 (National Statistics of Taiwan 2014). Although fertility has slightly increased in the last few years (TFR was 1.1 in 2013), Taiwan still has one of the lowest fertility levels in the World. If such low fertility levels persist, the next generation will be only a half of the size of the current generation; this would pose major challenges to the future developments of the Taiwanese society.

Fertility dynamics in Taiwan in the last decades have been documented (Chen and Liu 2007; Lee 2009); however, the reasons for a recent decline in fertility levels are far from clear. First, it is possible that the postponement of marriage and family formation, e.g. due to the expansion of tertiary education, explains a fertility decline to very low levels in the first decade of the 21st century. If this was the case then we would expect a significant recuperation of fertility in the future, once the postponement of family formation has ended (Goldstein et al. 2009). Alternatively, we may observe a significant fertility decline because of increased levels of childlessness among a younger generation of women, e.g. due to the incompatibility of employment and motherhood in the Taiwanese society (Lee 2009).

The aims of this PhD research project are to examine fertility dynamics in Taiwan in the last two decades and to investigate the causes of the recent fertility decline.

Data and Methodology
We will use birth statistics collected by National Statistics of Taiwan, population and housing census data from 2000 and 2010 and available social survey data such as the Manpower Utilization Survey (available on an annual basis) and the Women’s Marriage, Fertility and Employment survey (every three years). We will first calculate aggregate fertility measures for Taiwan in the past two decades and study the relationship between fertility and socioeconomic development. We will then investigate fertility variation by population subgroups and by geography. Third, we will go beyond aggregate fertility measures and conduct fertility analysis by birth order to detect underlying changes in fertility behaviour of Taiwanese women. Finally, we will project the future fertility trends in Taiwan and will discuss their implications to the country’s demographic, economic and social developments.

Supervisory Team and Study Pattern
We have formed a team of population researchers from the National Tsing Hua University (Taiwan) and the University of Liverpool (UK), with required skills and experience for a successful supervision of the PhD project. The supervisors of this project are Prof. Eric Lin (NTHU), Prof. Hill Kulu, Dr. Chris Lloyd and Dr. Gemma Catney (Liverpool).

The study pattern will be the following. In the first two years, the PhD student will be working at the National Tsing Hua University. In the third and fourth year, s/he will be working at the University of Liverpool. The primary supervisors will meet the student every two weeks; the whole supervisory team will meet once every two months by Skype.

Four research papers will be completed and submitted to international journals of population studies over four years; the PhD student will be a first author of the papers, the supervisors will be co-authors.

First, the project will provide rich and reliable information on childbearing dynamics in Taiwan over the last two decades. Second, it will improve our understanding of the causes of very low fertility levels in Taiwan and in East Asian countries and the economic and social consequences of low fertility.

The funding for this programme covers tuition fees and a contribution to living expenses of $10,000 New Taiwanese Dollars per month.


Chen, C. N. and P. K. C Liu. 2007. Is Taiwan’s lowest-low fertility reversible via socio-economic development?, Journal of Population Studies 46(6): 1–36.

Finney, N., and G. Catney, G. 2012. Minority Internal Migration in Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.

Goldstein, J. R., T. Sobotka and A. Jasilioniene. 2009. The end of lowest-low fertility?, Population and Development Review 35(4): 663–700.

Cheng, P. C. R. and E. S. Lin. 2010. Completing incomplete cohort fertility schedules, Demographic Research 23(9), 223–256.

Kulu, H. and E. Washbrook. 2014. Residential context, migration and fertility in a modern urban society, Advances in Life Course Research 21:3, 168–182.

Lee, M. 2009. Transition to below replacement fertility and policy response in Taiwan, Japanese Journal of Population 7(1): 71–86.

Lloyd, C. D. and I. G. Shuttleworth. 2012. Residential segregation in Northern Ireland in 2001: assessing the value of exploring spatial variations, Environment and Planning A 44 (1): 52–67.

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