Gender Inequality in TaiwanLocated in East Asia, Taiwan is a part of the Republic of China. The government has taken steps to improve gender inequality in Taiwan, but like other countries, it has made slow progress in increasing women’s participation in the labor force. From 1978 to 2015, the percentage of working women over the age of 15 increased from 38% to 51%. According to recent research, digital media has the power to fuel efforts to close the gap between men and women.

Gender Inequality in Taiwan

Historically, women in Taiwan were taught that they must obey their fathers, husbands and sons and depend on men. This traditional view incited women to form organizations that promoted gender equality. After World War II, the “Civil Code of the Republic of China” was applied to Taiwan. This code gave women the right to work, participate in politics and vote. Unfortunately, the gender pay gap remains an issue. In 2016, female workers in Taiwan made 14.6% less than their male co-workers.

The country has made progress, however. Today, Taiwan’s government has taken pride in increasing gender equality with a female head of state, President Tsai Ing-wen. Additionally, in the 2016 election, women made up 38% of the lawmakers voted into government positions. Voting in a significant percentage of female lawmakers opens opportunities for the Taiwanese government to fight against gender-based violence and discrimination. Some other ways to decrease gender inequality in Taiwan include supporting working mothers, establishing equal worker rights and offering fair access to education, business training and loans.

How Media Empowers Women

“Digital Media: Empowerment and Equality” is a study on how digital platforms empower female users and reduce gender inequality in Taiwan. The research discovered that digital technology gives women the power to spread awareness, as well as market and network. While the platforms offer opportunities, women would benefit even more if they have access to education to help them be successful on social media. For example, the Taiwan Women Up program has helped middle-aged and older women learn information and communication technology to support their organizations and empower themselves.

Furthermore, social media has the power to increase female empowerment through political involvement. Hashtag activism gives women the ability to make a public issue a global issue and pressure lawmakers. Social media also offers a platform for gendered violence stories and holds communities in multiple countries accountable for gender equality. Unfortunately, women sometimes have barriers to using this powerful tool, including limited access to technology, language barriers and censorship.

Need For Digital Education

Accenture found that digital fluency helps countries grow closer to equality in the workplace. The Digital Fluency Model reveals that countries with better digital fluency rates among women have higher rates of gender equality in the workplace. Women with better digital fluency also have more employment opportunities and flexibility. They can work from home and use technology to access more job opportunities.

Achieving gender equality is a challenge around the world, but Taiwan’s efforts to close the gap between men and women push the country in the right direction while adapting to the digital world.

Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr

Drought in Taiwan
For the first time in nearly 60 years, not a single typhoon hit the island of Taiwan in 2020. With no typhoons and little rain otherwise, the current drought in Taiwan is the worst the country has endured in decades.

Although droughts occur every few years, the current drought in Taiwan has brought water levels in the country to alarmingly low levels. Reservoirs in the country are very dry, with some reaching less than 10% total capacity. So far, the drought has lasted for more than 18 months. With 2021’s rainy season already nearly over, the end for Taiwanese citizens and farmlands is nowhere in sight.

Affecting the Farmers

Doughts have hit Taiwanese farmers particularly hard. The Taiwanese government has stopped irrigating more than 74,000 hectares of farmland. This was to conserve water and protect the island’s booming microchip manufacturing infrastructure. Manufacturing giant Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) reportedly uses up to 156 million liters of water daily while recycling an estimated 86% of consumed water. Farmers have transitioned from traditional crops including rice to low-water crops that include watermelons and sunflowers.

Poverty rates in Taiwan are low in comparison with poverty rates globally — with roughly 1% of the population “poor or belonging to the low-income bracket.” However, the drought in Taiwan will hit the rural poor the hardest. Poor farmers will suffer as landowners accept government subsidies in exchange for leaving farmland fallow. The farmers are unable to speak their minds for fear of angering the landowners.

Manufacturing giants including TSMC can use a portion of the profits to transport truckloads of water from rainier regions in Taiwan. However, farmers have had to resign to sipping tea and bicycling around town as the lands crack under the beating sun. As one Taiwanese farmer, Hsieh Tsai-shan, told the New York Times, “being a farmer is truly the worst.” 

The Struggle to Balance

The historic drought in Taiwan has highlighted shortcomings in the country’s handling of water across the nation. While some chide Taiwanese households for consuming too much water due to low water prices, others clarify that rainfall in Taiwan has been decreasing steadily over the past few decades.

The government has been working hard to address the drought efficiently. Taiwan depends heavily on microchip manufacturers, including TSMC, as a country. The TSMC accounts for “more than [90%] of the world’s manufacturing capacity for the most advanced chips.” Because of this, the Taiwanese government has authorized the companies to continue working within normal capacity. However, the companies recycle water at high percentages. Recycling does not fully make up the 63 million gallons of water TSMC consumed in 2019 across all of its manufacturing facilities. 

Restoring the Water

The allowances for manufacturing companies come at a cost. The recent drought in Taiwan has decimated its farming industry. It is not unusual for the government to shut off irrigation on a large scale in order to save water. However, it has only been six years since the last shut-off and farmers are struggling as a result.

The government is not only helping manufacturers including TSMC. It is also helping farmers by:

  • Offering farmers subsidies in exchange for not irrigating their fields
  • Looking into imposing extra fees on Taiwan’s 1,800 water-intensive factories
  • Drilling extra wells to create more water sources
  • Researching to fix leaky pipes, which can result in the loss of up to 14% of water in transport
  • Dumping cloud-seeding chemicals in hopes of triggering downpours

Only time will tell how long this crushing drought in Taiwan will last. Through the Taiwan government’s work, it may be able to overcome its shockingly low poverty rate of 1%, or at the very least, prevent poverty from rising. 

Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in Taiwan
The gender wage gap in Taiwan is a prominent issue. In 2012, women had to work 65 more days than men to earn the same pay. In 2018, it was down to 52 more days. But in 2019, it was back up to 54. Even though this statistic has decreased in the past 10 years, it is still a prominent issue.

Background

While the gender wage gap in Taiwan is better than in other developed nations, more work is necessary. In human health services, for example, the pay gap is 45%. This means that women would have to work 109 more days to receive the same yearly salary as a man. While the wage gap is decreasing, the progress is not spread out equally across different industries.

Certain professions have seen the gap increase in particular. In arts and entertainment careers, men’s wages in this field have increased drastically while women’s have remained the same.

Progress, From a Global Perspective

According to the Ministry of Labor, the average salary per hour for women in Taiwan in 2020 was New Taiwan (NT) $296, or $10.63. On the other hand, men earned NT $344, or $12.35. This gap has improved throughout the past 10 years, as it was 17.1% in 2010 and 14% in 2020.

While a significant wage gap in Taiwan still exists, the country is making significant progress in relation to other countries. For comparison, in 2019, the wage gap was 31.9% in Japan, 30.6% in South Korea and 17.7% in the United States.

Government Efforts

In order to raise awareness about the gender wage gap in Taiwan, the Ministry of Labor initiated an Equal Pay Day in 2012. This has drawn attention to the higher number of days women must work in order to earn the same amount as a man. As of 2017, women needed to work 13 fewer days to receive the same annual salary as they did in 2012.

Taiwan has also established gender equality laws to create a better workplace environment for women. In 2002, the Act of Gender Equality in Employment (AGEE) passed. Its goal is to protect gender equality in the workplace by prohibiting gender discrimination. One can see this in the Maternity Protection section of AGEE, which protects menstrual leave. This provides women with half of one’s regular pay one day each month, maternity leave for eight weeks and five days of leave for pregnancy checkups.

The Office of Gender Equality in the Taipei City government has played a key role in advocating for gender equality in Taiwan. Since its development, it has worked to improve family support, enforcing legal action against gender discrimination and supporting female union members.

Progress

The number of women who are pursuing college degrees in Taiwan has increased throughout the past decade. However, the graduate school rate is lower, with females taking up 31.7% of doctoral degree graduates. As the number of women in college continues to increase, they are more likely to hold positions in the workplace.

In addition to this, the average age of giving birth to one’s first child has increased. In 2017, the average age was 30.83 years. Family obligations make it difficult for mothers to continue their careers and/or education. This contributes to the higher number of women in the workplace and in graduate studies.

– Miranda Kargol
Photo: Flickr

Drought In TaiwanThe country of Taiwan, the world’s largest producer of computer chips, also known as semiconductors, is experiencing a massive drought. Decreased water supply has led to the government’s rationing of water, resulting in greater water prioritization for chip-producing companies than for struggling farmers in the region. The effects of the drought in Taiwan have gained the attention of many Instagram influencers who have posted information about it in order to spread awareness.

Drought in Taiwan

The most recent drought in Taiwan is the result of a dry spell that has lasted 18 months. Under normal circumstances, Taiwan is considered subtropical as the area usually receives plenty of rain throughout the year and typhoons are typical for the region. In the summer of 2020, however, Taiwan did not experience any typhoons and rainfall rates decreased significantly.

In the Baoshan Second Reservoir found in Hsinchu County, water levels dropped by 96.2% from March 12, 2019, to March 12, 2021. The state of the reservoir and other central water storage facilities in Taiwan prove just how serious the drought has become. A study conducted by the Research Center for Environmental Changes predicts a 50% chance of a 20% water inadequacy in the future, specifically in the Banxin and Taoyuan regions.

Drought and the Semiconductor Industry

As Taiwan is the world’s largest producer of semiconductor chips, companies rely heavily on the water supply to continue running since the chips require copious amounts of water to be cleaned and manufactured. Due to water shortages, the Taiwanese Government decided to stop irrigating thousands of hectares of crops and instead grant more water to the semiconductor chip industry. The government is compensating farmers, but farmers still risk losing clientele and damaging their brand reputation. Furthermore, young farmers who were encouraged to go into agriculture feel as though they have wasted investments in land and equipment.

The worldwide demand for the chips has caused companies in the United States, the U.K. and Australia to raise prices on cars containing microchips as the need for these devices is greater than ever. As the demand for chips continues to grow, Taiwan’s farmers must face the socioeconomic impacts of losing countless crops.

Solutions

The importance of the computer chip industry to Taiwan’s economy is immense. Therefore, the government is putting a lot of effort into trying to quickly resolve the water crisis. The government has prioritized constructing wells for water and using military planes to spread cloud-seeding chemicals that have the potential to produce rain.

The government had promptly tackled prior issues with water, including leaky pipes, which caused 14% of water loss in the past. The leakage rate is now down 20% from the previous decade. The government has also started creating more water desalination plants, which process significant amounts of water. The plants may not be enough to keep up with the needs of semiconductor manufacturers, however. Chip manufacturers are also attempting to save themselves.  A large semiconductor producer known as TSMC is recycling 86% of the water it uses in order to conserve water.

There is no doubt that water allocation during droughts in Taiwan must be improved, but with government authorities, struggling farmers and social media influencers coming together to discuss the issue, there is hope that a long-term solution may be on the horizon.

Susan Morales
Photo: Flickr

 Taiwan Provides Aid
Taiwan provides aid to Pacific nations amid Taiwan and China’s strife over diplomatic ties with nations like Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Fiji. These Pacific nations either align with the Taiwanese-backed Western coalition or the Chinese coalition.

Background

Nations in the Pacific Ocean typically have low GDPs, limited resources and populations below 1 million. As a result, these Pacific nations receive substantial foreign aid every year. Most of this aid comes from Australia. Australia donates to these nations to preserve trade routes and ensure stability and good geopolitics in the region. Taiwan, however, is coming to these developing countries for a different reason. It is battling China for diplomatic ties with these nations.

Taiwan’s foreign aid to this region, while helping the local populace, attempts to gain diplomatic ties from these small Pacific nations that have equal voting power as large forces like China in international organizations like the U.N. The Pacific nations can then vote in favor of resolutions that benefit Taiwan.

China’s Involvement

However, China threatens to upend this mutually beneficial relationship. China has begun its courting process with the Pacific nations to weaken Taiwan diplomatically. China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its infamous debt trap diplomacy are attempting to make a foray into these Pacific nations.

China’s ability to provide much more funding than Taiwan and its strategic scheme to trap developing nations that cannot repay China into debt has caused some of these Pacific nations to flip allegiances. Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga are just some of the countries that renounced Taiwanese recognition in favor of the CCP. This partly occurred by China pouring money into significant investments. Even though China clearly has spent much more than Taiwan in philanthropic efforts to Pacific nations, these Chinese funds aim to be more flashy than useful.

Taiwan’s Involvement

Taiwan, on the other hand, provides small but practical aid. Taiwan can still levy ties with these Pacific nations despite the influx of money from the CCP. Taiwanese donations in the region opt for more personable diplomacy. Despite not matching the wealth of China, Taiwan’s local funding that directly impacts citizens is favorable with the people of these Pacific nations.

The Taiwanese plan to directly provide aid to the local people on local projects seems to be working. Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and Nauru officially recognize Taiwan rather than China. The U.S., a Taiwanese ally, has recently built a military base in Palau. With the effectiveness of Taiwanese philanthropic aid to fund local projects in Pacific nations, China’s geopolitical goals in the region are in jeopardy.

However, independent non-governmental organizations have not forgotten about the inhabitants of these Pacific nations when the focus has been chiefly on geopolitics. The Pacific Island Association for Non-governmental Organizations (PIANGO) focuses on 22 Pacific nations. It has provided services such as protecting the environment, helping to support trade, supporting democracy and developing society and young people in Pacific nations. Projects like EDF9 Non-State Actors Project in Tuvalu provided funding for education, water and environmental projects. Non-governmental organizations can offer the same aid to Pacific nations as foreign governments do. Weaning off of foreign government aid and supporting non-governmental organizations can help maintain the sovereignty of the people of these Pacific nations. The positive impacts of non-governmental organizations can conclusively support the people of these Pacific nations, consequently protecting these Pacific nations from the unstable geopolitical situation in the region.

– Justin Chan
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Taiwan
As of the year 2017, about 1.5 million people in Taiwan experience some form of depression. Much like many other Asian populations, mental health issues within groups ranging from young children to prisoners to middle-aged adults heavily afflict Taiwan. With conflicts related to school bullying, family, structure and support, lack of available treatment and workplace violence, deterioration of mental health in Taiwan is something that many Taiwanese people experience. Evidently, mental health is indeed a pressing issue that calls for urgent alleviation.

Mental Health in Taiwan

A 20-year study from 1990 to 2010 utilized a Chinese Health Questionnaire to examine the prevalence of common mental disorders (CMDs) among over 10,000 Taiwanese adult participants. The study showed a doubling in probable CMDs from 11.5% to 23.8%. However, amid rising levels of mental illness in Taiwan, there is also a rise in efforts to dispel stigmas, implement more effective programs and make amendments in already established legislation. There are people and groups beginning to recognize and work towards both reviving conversations and seeking out solutions related to mental health.

The Mental Health Act of Taiwan

The Ministry of Health and Welfare first established the Mental Health Act of Taiwan in 1990 with the objective of promoting mental well-being, treating mental health issues and supporting patients and their families. In 2007, policymakers implemented an amendment to the act to put patients and their families first. Many policies, prevention and resource allocation thereafter were then based more heavily upon the input of those who have actually experienced mental health issues along with their family members.

One of the larger impacts of the amendment was that compulsory admissions needed to receive approval from the Psychiatric Disease Mandatory Assessment and Community Care Review Committee. The number of compulsory admissions, or involuntary admissions, decreased by 83% in comparison to 2006. This change showed Taiwan’s commitment to developing a more detailed plan for protecting patients’ safety and rights. The amendment also drastically impacted the way that psychiatric institutions function in that there were new requirements related to post-treatment procedures, providing assistance for the patient’s family and encouraging community-based rehabilitation. All of these changes were the result of efforts to enhance protection and treatment for those who face issues with mental health and illness.

Women Anonymous Reconnecting Mentally (WARM)

The issue of mental health in Taiwan often carries a negative connotation and many associate it with shame and self-accusation due to very traditional and Confucian values. However, there are now emerging support groups that allow people to voice their struggles and relieve the burden that they might feel. Women Anonymous Reconnecting Mentally (WARM), co-founded by Vanessa Wang in 2017, is the first women’s support group based in Taipei that aims to combat stigmas against mental health by allowing women to share their hardships without feeling ashamed. Though it does not provide professional treatment, women who attend these weekly meetings have expressed that they have found comfort through listening to and speaking about their own struggles.

Having been featured in the Taiwan Observer, Taiwan News and Taipei Times, WARM is quickly expanding its reach. WARM’s Facebook group has over 500 members and is continuing to grow. The issue of mental health is now experiencing more exposure and the process of reconciliation is beginning with these kinds of support groups. Many are slowly realizing the importance of reshaping the narrative around mental health.

The Mental Health Association in Taiwan (MHAT)

Founded in 1955, the Mental Health Association in Taiwan (MHAT) is another group that works with promoting mental health awareness, prevention and treatment. In 2017, it began to target mental health issues within schools through promoting techniques of mindfulness and books related to mental resilience. MHAT’s current goal is to educate young children, teachers and parents about mental health and resiliency. As a diverse group of people who work in various professional fields, MHAT has previously assisted in drafting and promoting legislation related to mental health. It has completed work with and related to the Mental Health Act, the Department of Mental and Oral Health and more.

Over time, mental health in Taiwan is becoming a more popular subject of conversation. There are increasingly more groups and pieces of legislation that advocate for these kinds of issues that will, in turn, raise awareness and encourage more positive attitudes surrounding mental health.

– Grace Wang
Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty in Taiwan 
Taiwan is an island off the coast of China. Globally, it has received praise for its exceptionally low household poverty rate, which is under 1%. While child poverty in Taiwan is rare, further reducing it is a priority for the Taiwanese government.

Measurement Methodology

Taiwan uses an absolute threshold to calculate the poverty rate. The country uses estimated monthly living expenses calculated in each province for its measurement. For example, residents in Taipei, a highly urbanized city, must earn over $337 for them to be over the poverty line. On the other hand, residents only need to earn above $171 monthly on the small island of Kinmen County. Such geographically-adjusted measures help ensure that Taiwanese families in expensive areas can afford basic necessities, including food, clothing and shelter.

Successful Tactics

Economic downturns do not render Taiwan helpless, such as the one in 2013. Instead, the Taiwanese government quickly raised welfare spending to help people who lost their jobs when factories relocated to China. Additionally, Taiwanese banks gave out microloans with extremely low-interest rates to help families start businesses. To this day, organizations outside of the government also participate in the fight against child poverty in Taiwan.

The Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) is an NGO dedicated to eradicating child poverty in Taiwan. This fund sponsored 48,601 children in Taiwan, and 66, 417 children abroad. TFCF began helping children in Taiwan in 1964 by building orphanages. It has since introduced Family Helper Programs and other programs to deliver donations to families in need of assistance. Similarly, TFCF has provided thousands of families with cash, supplies, emergency relief, vocational training and house repairs or reconstruction. Already, the TFCF appears to have helped successfully alleviate child poverty in Taiwan.

The global community can learn from Taiwan’s anti-poverty programs, which have almost completely weeded out child poverty in Taiwan. A recent study found that only 6% of Taiwanese children living in poverty — an already smaller group comparatively — experienced persistent poverty compared to 13.8% in the U.K. and 15.9% in Canada.

Room for Improvement

Child poverty in Taiwan is incredibly low due to effective country policies. However, there are a few areas where the state could improve. One problem is that many citizens make just above the poverty rate and are struggling to get by. Some of these families could earn more if they found lower-paying jobs and went on welfare.

Another problem is that a lot of immigrant families, particularly Southeast Asian immigrant families, primarily find low-skilled jobs and experience persistent discrimination. Similarly, many Aboriginal Taiwanese are also victims of racism, which can make it difficult to find jobs. This led to an approximated 60% poverty rate for Indigenous peoples in Taiwan. Every country, Taiwan included, could improve its anti-poverty strategy. Fortunately, the Taiwanese government is actively trying to help many of the groups that experience high levels of poverty.

Taiwan is one of the few countries in the world that retains a low poverty rate, particularly such a low child poverty rate. Taiwan can implement further improvements, but the country is a model for the international community in eradicating poverty.

Madelynn Einhorn
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Taiwan
In recent decades, Taiwan has made rapid improvements in the quality of life of its people, resulting in less than 1% of the population being poor or low income. Although these facts are definitely something to celebrate, Taiwan’s demographic has changed drastically during this time. People are living longer and having fewer children, causing the rate of aging in Taiwan to accelerate. In fact, Taiwan’s accelerated rate of aging is so high that it more than doubles that of European countries and the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies an “aging society” as when 7% of the population is 65 and older. Taiwan became an aging society in 1993 and estimates have determined that it will become a “super-aged society” by 2025 as about 20% of the population could be over the age of 65.

As the size of the ever-growing elderly population expands, their quality of life dissipates. Many rural counties in Taiwan have a dependency rate (the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people of traditional working ages) in excess of 10%. These rural townships lack even more services and resources, having limited access to essentials like medical and transportation services— and most notably, caregivers who leave and move to metro areas for jobs and education. This leaves the island with a dilemma on how to promote systematic endeavors— both in policies and research, as well as encouraging more involvement in non-government organizations to help with this aging issue. Here are five positive changes regarding elderly poverty in Taiwan.

5 Positive Changes Regarding Elderly Poverty in Taiwan

  1. Providing Proper Healthcare Coverage: In 2013, Taiwan introduced the National Health Insurance Program (NHI), a single-payer compulsory social insurance plan that covers annual health examinations for seniors 65 and older. NHI grants go to those aged 70 years or older with medium to low income, and grants that may include fiscal constraints from local authorities can go to citizens aged 65 to 69.
  2. Ensuring Economic Stability: A National Pension that launched in 2005 serves Taiwanese citizens who do not receive coverage from public funds. They have assured a living allowance based on their family’s financial circumstances. This secures regular, lifelong pension benefits for an elderly population living on a lower income. If there are seniors who are not receiving shelter or resettlement services from institutions, family caregivers may receive a monthly special care allowance as an additional aid. The Pilot Program, an option for senior citizens to convert their houses and land into monthly payments, is another coverage plan also taking effect and creating a positive change in regard to elderly poverty in Taiwan.
  3. Building a Long-term Care Plan: The SFAA (Social and Family Affairs Administration) implemented an initiative to improve Taiwan’s long-term home and community-based services. Beneficial services like daily routine assistance and mental and physical healthcare for the disabled are improving the quality of life of Taiwanese seniors. The SFAA has also enacted an assistive device acquisition to support in-home mobility and improvement of residential accessibility, respite care to support family caregivers, transportation to those who require long-term care, as well as providing daily healthy meals to economically disadvantaged or disabled seniors.
  4. Establishing Access to Social Welfare Programs: New developments like tour buses are providing care services spanning from inner cities to the more rural areas of the island. The SFAA developed this to encourage seniors to step outside and interact with the community. Through this service, they can learn more about social welfare benefits like health counseling, senior care, leisure and entertainment. The SFAA has also funded Senior Citizen Schools where seniors can join courses that enhance their quality of life after retirement. Seniors also have the asset of participating in the Double Ninth Festival which insights ideas of healthy-aging by staying active and involved in competitions and other activities.
  5. Addressing the Rising Alzheimers and Dementia Crisis: A dramatic rise in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia has ignited involvement in government and non-government organizations (NGOs). Amongst these organizations making a difference in elderly poverty in Taiwan is the School of Wisdom, based in Taipei. This program enables Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to keep physically and mentally stimulated and live a fuller, happier life. Programs such as these provide helpline services, care and nursing facilities, education websites and support gatherings for the patients and their caregivers.

Adapting to a New Demographic

As Taiwan’s economic prosperity continues to evolve at a continuing rate, it is important to pay attention to those who may be falling behind. Taking affirmative action on positive changes to end elderly poverty in Taiwan is the greatest way for the Taiwanese to stay true to their rooted cultural values of respecting one’s elders and to ensure that citizens in need are experiencing an optimal quality of life.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in TaiwanTaiwan is an independent island nation off the coast of mainland China. The democratic nation of Taiwan has struggled since gaining its independence in 1949 with a political divide over its sovereignty as its economy remains dependent on an already strained connection to China. With a population of over 23.7 million and only 1.5% living in poverty, Taiwan’s GNI per capita is estimated to be over $29,500. While hunger in Taiwan only affects a minuscule proportion of the population, the small country has taken impressive steps in alleviating global hunger, while implementing food waste and distribution solutions to assist its citizens facing hunger.

Taiwan’s Supply Chain

As an isolated island with the average citizen wealthy enough to make selective consumption choices, Taiwan’s food supply chain relies heavily on imported goods. In 2018, Taiwan imported $4 billion in agricultural goods. Taiwan’s food self-sufficiency rate is estimated to be only 30%. The Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, has committed to raising the nation’s food self-sufficiency rate to 40% during her term. Ing-wen and other government officials are working in conjunction with Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture to promote the consumption of domestically produced food and to bolster food stockpiles, which already contain 28 months’ worth of essential food items.

Food Waste

Taiwan produces an estimated 16.5 million tons of food waste. Taiwan implemented a fee on all other forms of waste and recyclables almost 20 years ago but has no fee for food waste. With Taiwan’s urban population booming and arable farmland declining in availability, the environmental, national security and economic costs of food waste have risen to the top of the political agenda. Taiwan plans to build several anaerobic biological treatment centers for food waste in the coming years and privatizing the food waste economy to create financial incentives for companies, yet these steps are only the start of a much needed long-term solution.

Domestic Hunger Relief

Data from Taiwan’s 2018 National Agricultural Congress showed that 1.8 million Taiwanese are underfed or lack food security. Despite a poverty rate of under 2%, hunger in Taiwan affects 7.8% of the population. In 2007, that percentage was only 3.6%. The rapid increase sparked government initiatives to reduce hunger in Taiwan. In 2019 alone, the government announced a nationally-funded food bank’s opening, expanded healthcare for agricultural workers, passed The Agricultural Wholesale Market Management Regulation and the Food Administration Act. The new resources and legislature aim to stabilize food prices, protect rural populations and improve data collection of the relationship between food waste and hunger in Taiwan.

Global Hunger Relief

In addition to taking steps to minimize hunger in Taiwan, its government has emerged as a strong contributor to providing global hunger aid and solutions. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides hunger relief through programs funded by it’s International Cooperation and Development Fund. Through this funding, Taiwan supports The Horticulture Project in the Marshall Islands, which promotes agricultural education development. Taiwan also worked with Action against Hunger in 2019 to improve refugee living conditions in parts of Asia and Africa, improving food accessibility for over 12,000 refugees. That same year, Taiwan launched rice donation programs to supply almost 10,000 tons of rice in Jordan, Mongolia, Namibia, Guatemala and South Africa.

Moving forward, as its government pledges to address hunger in Taiwan, perhaps even stronger efforts can be made by the Taiwanese to reduce global hunger. While Taiwan grapples with innovative approaches to reducing food waste and alleviating domestic hunger, it continues to set precedent for global hunger relief efforts.

Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous People of Taiwan
Taiwan is an island nation off the coast of China that houses 560,000 indigenous peoples — around 2.7% of the entire population. In the 1940s, the Chinese Civil War forced the Republic of China (ROC) to relocate its base to Taiwan, causing 1.4 million people to migrate from the mainland. Prior to this incident, in 1895, Japan defeated the Qing empire for Taiwan in the First Sino-Japanese War. War has ravaged native families and brought thousands of colonists to the country. This decreased the number of aboriginal people and created a divide between the settlers and the indigenous people of Taiwan.

The Reasons Behind Poverty

Due to consistent colonization since the 1600s, the native people of Taiwan (originally Formosa) have faced persistent oppression. Under Dutch rule from 1624 to 1662, the indigenous people of Taiwan had to convert to Christianity. Colonists also recruited them for military services and placed them into strenuous jobs. Japanese soldiers in the early 1900s raped women, illegally took land and enslaved indigenous men. In 1914, the Japanese killed over 10,000 aboriginal inhabitants of the Taroko area, resulting in the major uprising the Wushe Rebellion of 1930.

Oppression and discrimination have quelled the process of native people integrating into modern society. Most of the indigenous people of Taiwan remain below the poverty line. Household incomes of aboriginal families are 40% lower than the national average. A study by an Academia Sinica sociologist surveyed Han people of Taiwan: only 40% of families would let their children marry an aboriginal person while 80% allowed their children to marry another Han person. This is shocking evidence of the prominence of societal discrimination. The Democratic Progressive Party leaders have been heard calling indigenous peoples racial slurs to suppress and insult aboriginal people. Many businesses still refuse to employ aborigines. The problem worsened when an influx of workers from southeast Asian countries came in and competed for traditionally aboriginal jobs.

Natural disasters that often rampage the island consistently annihilate sources of income for indigenous families. Typhoon Morakot, a fatal category 2 typhoon that hit Taiwan in August of 2009, killed 673 people, mostly from aboriginal villages. Landslides and heavy winds destroyed villages and small economies. An earthquake on September 21, 1999 killed over 2,400 people and sent 100,000 people into homelessness.

The Effects of Being in Poverty

Poverty in indigenous communities has hurt their access to education, insurance and healthcare and is exacerbating the inequality gap. In 2013, 10% of aboriginal students dropped out of college. Of those, 12% could not afford to continue their education. Although 90% of aboriginal college students receive a higher-level education at private universities, they tend to be more expensive causing many students to have financial burdens. Despite the 12-year compulsory education system, aboriginal students in rural areas receive a substandard education. Financial struggles prevent 3% of students from enrolling in school. Aboriginal parents often move to the city for work while their children provide for themselves. Sometimes, the oldest sibling drops out to take care of their younger siblings.

According to a survey that professors at the National Taiwan University conducted, 45% of indigenous participants believe that they are least likely to be hired and promoted compared to Han people. The study also found that the indigenous people of Taiwan lack access to social welfare services. This leads to the widening gap of inequality among the rich and poor, as well as between the Han and indigenous people. In 1985, the income gap between the indigenous people and the national average was $3,702 (USD), while in 2006 it increased to $20,006 (USD). Gradual increases in inequality build higher obstacles for indigenous people to conquer.

Combatting Poverty

The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) is a group of ethnically indigenous government individuals, working to improve the life of indigenous people of Taiwan. Recently, CIP initiated the Four-Year Plan to develop a proper social welfare system to protect aboriginal individuals. The government hopes to increase employment by providing internship opportunities to the indigenous youth and creating websites like “Indigenous Job Agency.” The CIP also guides aboriginal businesses, teaching companies how to market, package and sell their products in the metropolitan area. They aim to develop a “sustainable self-sufficient industrial model” in indigenous villages. A self-sufficient model will help businesses survive with the modern market economy and traditional manufacturing skills. CIP also plans to increase healthcare services and protect indigenous rights to bridge the inequality gap.

The Renewal Foundation, a nongovernmental organization devoted to children’s education, is helping bring people out of poverty. The Bunun Tribe’s official website, run by the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation and the Bunun Tribal Leisure Farm, aims to develop educational and financial sectors of their own communities.

Taiwanese indigenous communities are gradually rising out of poverty. Recent statistics have shown increasing education rates and income equality. With assistance from the government and other institutions, aboriginal people will preserve their cultural heritage and reintegrate back into society.

Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr