Facilitating Childbearing in Taiwan: The Role of Domestic Gender Equity and Parental Leave

Thomas, Jac
(2021) Facilitating Childbearing in Taiwan: The Role of Domestic Gender Equity and Parental Leave. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Across many high- and middle-income countries, fertility rates have declined to unsustainably low levels. This phenomenon is particularly acute in Taiwan, where fertility has been below the "lowest-low" level of 1.3 births per woman since 2003 and hit the extremely low level of 0.895 in 2010. These trends may lead to long-term social and economic problems due to the narrowing of the working-age population and increases in old-age dependency ratios, and women are having fewer children than they desire. Ultimately, the persistence of below-replacement fertility will lead to population decline. On the academic side, theorists have attempted to explain low fertility in Taiwan in terms of gender inequity, arguing that gender-equitable career ambitions and gender-inequitable family expectations have placed a double burden on women who want to have children. On the policy side, the Taiwanese government has attempted to increase fertility through pro-natal policies, the most expensive of which has been the Parental Leave Allowance (PLA) introduced in 2009. There is heretofore no micro-level statistical evidence that traditional familial and domestic obligations reduce women’s fertility in Taiwan. There is also no research attempting to evaluate the causal impact of the PLA or any other national pro-natal policy on fertility in Taiwan. Moreover, the wider academic literature is unclear on whether parental leave impacts fertility, and is methodologically unclear on how to identify the effect of leave policies on fertility. In this thesis, we aim to find out whether gender inequity is a cause of low fertility in Taiwan, and whether parental leave policies have an impact on fertility. This thesis is structured around three research papers: an empirical evaluation of the effect of housework division on realised fertility; a systematic review of the effects of parental leave policies on fertility; and an empirical evaluation of the causal impact of the PLA on fertility. In the first and third papers, we use econometric methods to predict next births based on housework division and PLA eligibility respectively. In the second paper, we use systematic review methods to find and synthesise all the best available evidence of the causal impact of leave on fertility. In the first paper, we find that the division of housework between married couples of parity 1 or higher has a large impact on subsequent fertility, with more equal divisions being associated with higher fertility. In the second paper, we develop a new conceptual and methodological framework to decompose the different impacts of leave policies on fertility. We also argue that certain types of effects are more informative to pro-natal policy-makers than others. Surveying the available evidence in terms of our novel framework, we find that studies identifying a broad class of effects consistently report positive relationships, and those reporting null relationships are only identifying a narrow class of effects of marginal interest to policy-makers. However, the findings are restricted to the Western countries in which these studies have been conducted. In the third paper we use our framework to evaluate the causal impact of the PLA on fertility. Contrary to our findings in Western settings, we find that the PLA did not increase fertility for women who were always working, but may have increased second births among women who had been in and out of work since marriage. Our findings make several contributions to research on low fertility, both globally and in Taiwan. Firstly, we empirically confirm the validity of gender equity theory as an explanation of low fertility in Taiwan. Secondly, we provide an intelligible framework for analysing the effects of pro-natal policies on fertility, that reflects the imperatives of policy-makers. Thirdly, we show that parental leave policies have a consistently positive impact on fertility in Western societies, and fourthly we show that the PLA had a limited impact on fertility in Taiwan, despite its cost.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Engineering > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2021 08:48
Last Modified: 19 May 2022 07:21
DOI: 10.17638/03134818
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3134818