Family Friendly Alliance Summit
The ECCT hosted the 2023 Family Friendly Alliance Summit. It was the inaugural event hosted by the chamber’s Family Friendly Alliance (FFA), which was established as a platform for collaboration among various stakeholders to address the challenges resulting from Taiwan’s low birth-rate, ageing population and talent shortage. The event, themed “The ‘S’ in ESG - Sustainable Population, Sustainable Economy - How employers can make an impact and serve as role models”, brought together experts from government and the private sector to examine the major demographic trends and related challenges facing Taiwan and seek possible solutions to address them. By sharing best practices, especially from Europe, the FFA aims to promote cooperation between the government, corporations and NGOs to create a family friendly environment in Taiwan.
The summit began with opening remarks by ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo and Filip Grzegorzewski, Head of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan. This was followed by presentations in two sessions by government officials and industry experts on topics including demographic challenges, advancing family-friendly policies to support sustainable population development, a sustainable economy, achieving work-life balance and labour law reform proposals for a family friendly environment, among others.
The presentations were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Fran Milnes, Country President of Novartis Taiwan. The final panel discussion featured all of the ECCT member company speakers as well as Sherman Yu, Vice President and General Manager of GSK Taiwan. The event was concluded with a ceremony where representatives from 12 ECCT member companies pledged their commitment to create family friendly workplaces in their organisations.
This summit comes at a crucial time for Taiwan, which experienced its third consecutive annual population decline in 2022 as the country saw both its lowest number of births and highest number of deaths on record and is on track to become a super-aged society by 2025, with one in five residents over the age of 65.
Session 1 - Demographic challenges and the sustainable economy
Topic: Demographic challenges for a sustainable Taiwan
Speaker: Shih Keh-her, Deputy Minister, National Development Council (NDC)
In his presentation, Deputy Minister Shih noted that the NDC formulates policies related to many areas, including economic development, international cooperation, net zero emissions and the bilingual nation as well as population and immigration. In the areas of population and immigration, the NDC cooperates with five other agencies to formulate policies.
Shih referred to the European Commission’s 2021 Strategic Foresight Report, which highlights shifts in the global order and demography as one of four key global trends along with climate change, pressure on democratic models of governance and values and digital hyperconnectivity and technological transformation.
Taiwan’s demographic challenges are well-known and similar to developed countries in both Europe and Asia. The government has already formulated and implemented a number of policies to address the falling birth rate and ageing population, including subsidies for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), healthcare for young children, childcare, policies to cultivate talent, and increase the participation rate of middle-aged and elderly workers in the workforce.
The government recognises the need to increase the availability and quality of childcare facilities. Also high on the government’s agenda is addressing the impending labour shortage. According to Shih, Taiwan will face a shortage of 400,000 workers by 2030 and up to five million by 2050 unless action is taken. Shih noted that initiatives like the Gold Card programme are helping to bring in skilled professionals and some rules have been relaxed to allow skilled labourers to remain in Taiwan for longer. However, he admitted that more could be done to make the process easier for both white and blue collar workers and to address issues like making opening bank accounts easier, allowing spouses to work and finding schools for the children of foreign residents.
Topic: Declining birth rates and an ageing workforce – From theory to action
Speaker: Emily Tiemann, Manager of the Health Policy Team for Economist Impact
In her (recorded) presentation, the speaker began by showing statistics on falling birth rates in Asia. With the exception of Indonesia, all countries in the region now have birth rates below the 2.1 children per woman that is necessary to maintain populations at a stable level. Lower birth rates also lead to lower economic growth.
Birth rates have tended to fall along with urbanisation, higher education rates among women, rising costs of living and raising children, a rising age of giving birth (fertility drops with age). There is also a strong correlation between marriage rates and birth rates (especially in Asia, where social norms dictate that having children outside of marriage remains rare).
Economist Impact has looked at the effectiveness of some of the policy measures used by various countries to address declining birth rates. While it is not possible to isolate the impact of individual policy measures (especially when more than one is implemented simultaneously), parental leave, flexible working arrangements, childcare subsidies and IVF subsidies have all been shown to boost birth rates. However, early and consistent action is needed (policies need to be stable and implemented for an extended period) because it may take time for any particular measure to produce results.
Topic: Advancing family friendly policies to support population growth
Speaker: Lee Li-Feng, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare
According to the speaker, the mean age of women in the first marriage increased from 24 in 1981 to 30.4 in 2021 while the mean age of women having their first child increased from 23.7 in 1981 to 31.2 in 2021. Meanwhile, the high cost of raising children and the challenge of balancing family and career have discouraged women from having children. According to Lee, 48% of women quit their jobs to have children.
The Executive Yuan incorporated countermeasures against low birth rate from 10 of its ministries into the “Measures Against Low Birth Rate in the Republic of China”, which was approved in July 2018. Main measures include fertility policy to ensure sustainable population growth, balancing career and family (through implementing policies for accessible and affordable childcare services and creating family friendly workplaces in the public and private sectors), improving the quality of care for infants, accelerated improvement of availability of public preschool education, affordable semi-private preschool education and achieving comprehensive childcare with childrearing allowances.
Additional measures include a housing policy that supports the raising of children, tax incentives that encourage the raising of children and incentives to encourage private corporations to participate in providing day care services and expansion of employee day care services in the public sector. For example, the Ministry of Labor provides subsidies for establishing day care centres.
Parental leave (for both parents) has been increased to encourage parents to have children while newlyweds and parents with underaged children are given priority for public housing.
Topic: Sustainable population, sustainable economy
Speaker: Boonhuey EE, General Manager of Merck Healthcare Taiwan; Managing Director, Merck Hong Kong and Macau & Co-chair, FFA
The speaker gave an overview of the FFA, which was established in 2022 as a platform for collaboration among various stakeholders to address the challenges resulting from Taiwan’s low birth-rate and ageing population. Its mission is to cooperate with the government, medical professionals, research institutions, NGOs and other stakeholders to find and promote solutions to support a healthy and sustainable population development, in particular, falling birth rates, an increasingly ageing population. The ultimate goal of the FFA is to create a family friendly environment in Taiwan.
The FFA is generating awareness by arranging lecture (webinars) and events like the summit, drafting family friendly policy recommendations for the government and identifying and promoting best practices for companies on policies such as work-life integration, flexible work policies, family care leave, childcare, parental leave, diversity, equity & inclusion and reproductive health.
So far 12 ECCT member companies have joined the FFA and pledged to create family friendly workplaces in their organisations. The speaker noted that the objectives of the FFA are aligned with five of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals namely, Goal 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), Goal 5 (Gender Equality), Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
She stressed that the low birth rate will have an impact on the workforce and talent.
The government has already taken action, such as drafting laws to increase parental leave and providing subsidies for IVF treatment and other types of support to new parents. According to the speaker, IVF subsidies have already helped thousands of couples and resulted in the birth of 8,000 babies.
Employers also have an important role to play in areas like alleviating work-life conflicts and creating family friendly workplaces and policies. In this regard she urged all companies to join the 12 ECCT member companies who have pledged to create family friendly workplaces. She made the point that employees do not necessary want to work from home but definitely want more flexible working options.
Session 2: Family friendly workplace and talent sustainability
Topic: Labour law reform for a family friendly environment
Speaker: Howard Shiu, Partner, Baker McKenzie & Co-chair, ECCT’s Human Resources committee
The speaker reiterated the factors raised by previous speakers that are contributing to Taiwan’s low birth rate. In addition to the impact on the workforce that this will cause, he cited the other impacts including less demand for real estate, a lack of soldiers to defend Taiwan and the likelihood of school closures.
The problem of a lack of affordable childcare is a problem recognised by the government but few companies with more than 100 employees see it as their responsibility.
Certain things are improving. In recent years, the labour force participation rate of married women with children under the age of six has increased and gradually caught up with that of married women without children. In addition, the number of men taking unpaid parental leave has increased.
The government has implemented several new policies in 2023 including broadening the eligibility for childcare allowances and childcare subsidies to all parents, raising wages for childcare workers and improving the quality of childcare services.
He went on to reiterate the ECCT’s policy recommendations as listed in the HR committee’s 2023 Position Paper. This includes granting flexibility to employees to undergo fertility treatment, amending the Act of Gender Equality in Employment to give employees the right to apply to work remotely or part-time for a maximum of two years while they are raising children at home, encouraging enterprises to provide childcare spaces through subsidies or tax incentives and lowering the legal threshold to allow Taiwan residents to hire foreign domestic workers.
Topic: Gain an edge – winning the war for talent
Speaker: Cindy Chen, Regional Head, Adecco Taiwan & South Korea & Co-Chair, FFA
The speaker noted that the post-pandemic era is posing a lot of challenges for companies to attract and retain talent. The talent shortage is partly due to digitalisation (the need for people with tech skills). Leaders have the difficult job of maintaining productivity while also taking care of employees’ needs, especially demands for more flexibility. Employers who want to keep good people will have to accommodate these demands or risk losing talent to rival firms.
Over 50% of the Fortune 500 CEOs consider “talent” as their biggest challenge. In Taiwan, nearly 75% of people surveyed for Adecco’s white paper 2022 (titled “War for talent”) believe that Taiwan is facing a serious talent shortage and nearly 60% (58.54%) of the companies surveyed said they are currently facing a serious lack of talent. 30% of companies stated that they were unable to find suitable candidates for more than 20% of their job openings after recruiting for more than three months. In addition to adjusting talent recruitment plans more quickly and flexibly, companies also need to establish long-term talent recruitment, training and retention plans.
Regarding talent strategies, companies are focusing on salary and benefits, strengthening company culture, flexible work environment and providing training. However, the priorities of management are not always exactly the same as employees, who, on average, cite the top reasons for staying their jobs as being happy, stability, work-life balance and enjoying working with colleagues. For this reason, companies are advised to go beyond salary and benefits and also pay attention to career progression, flexibility, and the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. These are the key levers to retain talent.
In terms of salary, organisations need to ensure that salaries remain competitive in times of extreme economic and political uncertainty and make the link between pay and performance, instead of overfocusing on hours worked. In terms of flexibility, workers continue to demand autonomy over working hours, working location, time off and scheduling. The four-day week is becoming a strong retention and attraction strategy. In terms of career progression, development of talent is vital. Not only will it increase their satisfaction, but it will future-proof the business and create a talent pipeline of skilled workers. In terms of mental health, employers should encourage employees to take their full annual leave and sick leave (when necessary), while managers and subordinates alike should be coached and encouraged to initiate conversations around mental health and wellbeing.
The motivation of the new generation of employees is not the same as the previous generation. The emphasis has shifted from a primary focus on compensation to self-fulfilment. For this reason, leaders need to create an environment that makes employees happy.
Message from the mayor of Taipei
Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an also submitted a video message which was broadcast at the summit, where he gave an overview of all the ways that the city government is working to make life easier for its citizens. He gave an extensive list of subsidies and benefits available to Taipei citizens, including one-off payments to mothers after they have given birth, free health checks and a variety of subsidies for pre-school education, childcare, transport and vaccinations, among others.
You may download the speakers' slides here: