Taiwan's birth rate hit a record low in 2010, the government said on Sunday, as President Ma Ying-jeou ordered "national security-level" counter measures to address the issue.
The crude birth rate, based on the number of childbirths per 1,000 people each year, came in at 0.721 percent in 2010, compared with 0.829 percent the previous year, according to data posted on the interior ministry website.
The number of newly born babies also struck a record low of 166,886 last year, down from 191,310 of 2009, it said.
Interior ministry officials said some parents were anxious to avoid having children in 2010, which in Chinese tradition was the Year of the Tiger, deemed one of the fiercest astrological signs.
Meanwhile, the number of people aged 65 and over accounted for 10.74 percent of the island's more than 23 million population, above the 7.0 percent level at which a society is defined as "ageing" by the World Health Organisation, the ministry said.
The new numbers alarmed Ma when he was given a preview of them by Interior Minister Chiang Yi-hua earlier this week, local media reported.
"President Ma said the government must not sit idle and demanded that 'national security-level' measures be taken," the minister said.
Taiwan's authorities have offered incentives to try to boost birth rates, amid growing concerns that a severe manpower shortage will trigger serious social and economic problems.
The Council for Economic Planning and Development, Taiwan's top economic planning body, is proposing an annual budget of Tw$38 billion ($1.3 billion) for birth incentives and childcare support from 2012, local media said.
Under the plan, parents will be entitled to a minimum monthly subsidy of Tw$3,000 for each newborn up until two years old and an annual schooling stipend of Tw$30,000 for children aged two to six.
The government hopes to encourage the public to have more children during the Year of the Dragon in 2012, which is considered the most auspicious year in the Chinese zodiac and a favorite birth sign for children, the media said.