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Publication Date : 18-03-2013
Such seniors can mortgage their homes to govt for cash
Single, elderly Taiwanese can now mortgage their homes to the government in return for monthly stipends under a new measure to strengthen the social safety net amid an ageing population and falling marriage rates.
The home-for-annuity scheme, or yi fang yang lao in Chinese, aims to help never married, divorced or widowed people aged at least 65 and who have no heir or siblings. Such Taiwanese are not eligible for existing welfare schemes if they own property.
"As the number of senior citizens increases and people live ever longer, demand for economic security and everyday help for the aged will definitely grow," Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan said in announcing the scheme.
He noted that as many as 80 per cent of Taiwanese own the houses they live in. However, some seniors, even though they own the roofs over their heads, cannot afford everyday expenses.
"The government has to plan ahead and think of ways to help seniors live with dignity after they retire," said Lee.
Under the scheme, seniors mortgage their homes to the government to get cash, the amount of which is determined by their age and gender, and the value of their property.
A 70-year-old man whose home is assessed to be worth NT$10 million (US$336,000), for example, will receive up to NT$34,800 (US$1,200) a month until he breathes his last.
Women get slightly less - NT$33,000 (US$1,100) in this example - because they tend to live longer.
The participant's mortgaged home becomes the property of the government upon his death.
The ministry has secured NT$64 million (US$2.15 million) in lottery taxes to fund up to 100 cases for a start, and will source for more funding, spokesman Chuang Chin-chu told The Straits Times. She said there was no way to tell from government records how many Taiwanese were eligible for the scheme.
What the statistics do show is that Taiwan is expected to become an "aged" society by World Health Organisation definitions in 2017, when 14 per cent of its 23 million people will be more than 65 years old.
Meanwhile, marriage rates in Taiwan have steadily declined since 2000, while divorce rates have crept up. In 2000, 56.38 per cent of Taiwanese aged above 15 were married; by 2011, that figure had dropped to 51.79 per cent. Divorced Taiwanese made up 7.32 per cent of the population in 2011, up from 4.24 per cent in 2000.
The authorities have come up with various schemes in recent years to meet the needs of the shifting demographics.
The Council of Labour Affairs introduced a "caregiver on demand" system this year to help Taiwanese take care of their aged parents without the need for live-in foreign domestic helpers.
And for some years now, the health and economic affairs ministries have been working with private firms to offer home-based medical services to seniors.
The home-for-annuity concept is borrowed from practices in countries like the United States and France.
Liu Pei-ching, a supervisor at Hondao Senior Citizens' Welfare Foundation, feels that the qualifying conditions for yi fang yang lao are too stringent. "What many elderly folk yearn for are companionship and care, not money," she said.