Taiwan presidential hopeful offers pets for pregnancies in push to boost birth rate | Taiwan

A billionaire presidential hopeful in Taiwan has proposed boosting the plummeting birthrate by offering couples free pets if they have a baby.

Terry Gou, the founder of Apple-supplier Foxconn, announced his intention to seek the presidency as an independent candidate last week.

In an early sign of how his campaign may run, Gou told attendees at a Taipei city temple on Friday that the declining birthrate in Taiwan could be addressed by giving new parents a cat or dog.

Taiwan has one of the world’s lowest birth rates, with many people citing the high cost of living, difficulties in accessing childcare, and traditional gender expectations. The rapid aging of the population threatens the economy and military defense of Taiwan.

Meanwhile pet ownership is skyrocketing, with anecdotal reports suggesting many couples are choosing animals over children. Gou however, felt people could be motivated to take on both.

“Give birth to a child and I will let you raise one more pet,” he said, according to a translation by Formosa TV. “A cat, a dog. Give birth to two, and I will let you adopt two more.”

Getting a pet in Taiwan does not require government permission. Gou said he had recently visited an animal shelter, and felt that two issues could be solved together.

“If there is no birth rate in the future, who will take care of our furry friends?” he told reporters later. “So I have put these two issues together. You can’t expect me, one person, to propose a complete policy for every little matter. Adding and multiplying love, that’s my goal.”

The proposal was criticized by some government politicians and animal welfare groups. Gou said that during the last presidential election, he had proposed government subsidies for childrearing costs up to the age of six, but it was not implemented.

Gou has also pledged to fix cross-strait relations and boost Taiwan’s economy. He resigned from the Foxconn board on Saturday.

He has until November to gather 290,000 signatures to secure his nomination, but has already shaken up the presidential race. Gou would be the third opposition candidate, alongside the KMT’s Hou You-ih, and the Taiwan People’s party’s Ko Wen-je. The nominee from the ruling Democratic Progressive party, vice-president Lai Ching-te, remains in front with about one third of support in the poll.

President Tsai Ing-wen is due to step down in January at the end of two terms.

Political analysts say Gou’s entry threatens to further split the non-DPP vote.

Gou’s campaign has been contacted for comment.

By hadem