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

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

Facts About Healthcare in TaiwanUniversal healthcare in Taiwan provides health services indiscriminately to the country’s constituents. Healthcare itself is highly regarded as important for nations looking to care for impoverished citizens. Taiwan, an island country in East Asia, provides universal healthcare to its population of more than 23 million. Here are 6 facts about healthcare in Taiwan under the National Health Insurance (NHI) program.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Taiwan

  1. Taiwan is under a single-payer healthcare system. Under a single-payer model, one public agency controls healthcare for everyone. Taiwan implemented this system of universal healthcare in 1995 as recommended by then-advisor Uwe Reinhardt. Reinhardt pushed for an equitable healthcare program that would cover all citizens effectively without bias. Before the implementation of the program, private insurance companies provided coverage for around 57% of the country’s citizens; universal healthcare provides for 100%.
  2. Enrollment in national healthcare is mandatory. All Taiwanese citizens must be enrolled in the NHI program, as well as travelers staying in Taiwan for more than six months. The National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) covers everyone in Taiwan. Citizens have NHI IC cards that contain their medical records.
  3. Taiwanese citizens still have autonomy within the system. While the healthcare system is national, doctors and hospitals still operate privately. Residents of Taiwan may choose which establishments they visit, but they must present their NHI IC cards when they receive treatment. After treating patients, hospitals and doctors claim payment from the NHIA. Patients may be charged a small copayment depending on their income.
  4. NHI covers virtually everything. NHI guarantees free coverage for preventive care such as child care and cancer screenings. It provides care for mental health as well as general primary care. Citizens under NHI are also given access to the basics, such as medicine (modern and traditional) and checkups. Some private insurance companies also exist, which citizens may choose to patronize based on needs that don’t exist within the NHI system, such as very specific types of medicine or treatment.
  5. Costs are low for everyone. The NHIA stratifies patients based on their income and financial need, which means that low-income workers have their healthcare completely subsidized. The NHI, however, has capped copayment amounts that benefit even high-income patients. The system caps prescription drug copayments at $6.64 and specialized physician visits at about $14. Approval ratings for the national healthcare system are higher than ever with more than 80% of Taiwanese citizens expressing their approval.
  6. The healthcare system is incredibly efficient. Because of the nationalized system, healthcare administration costs are low in Taiwan. As a result, the country only spends about 6% of its GDP on the healthcare system every year. In comparison, the U.S. spent almost 18% of its GDP on healthcare in 2018. This is one of the lowest rates for a country with healthcare as developed as Taiwan.

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance system is an example of universal healthcare that benefits all. Healthcare is consistently an important factor in poverty alleviation because basic medical treatment can stretch lifespans and save lives. Giving the impoverished access to healthcare is an important step in fighting poverty. While Taiwan may have an efficient and beneficial system, many people globally remain in need of healthcare services.

Maggie Sun
Photo: Pixabay

Taiwan is an East Asian country situated in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines. Given its close proximity to China and its high population density, the island nation faced a high risk of devastation from COVID-19. Despite these factors, however, Taiwan has managed to maintain control over the virus. The country recorded an incredibly low number of cases in comparison to the size of its population.

A Success Story

COVID-19 first made it to Taiwan on January 21, 2020. Despite Taiwan’s proximity to China and its population of over 23 million, the total number of cases as of August 2020 remains under 500, with only 7 confirmed deaths. Of these cases, a majority of them occurred in March 2020. The country saw few cases in April, as well as in the following months. COVID-19 in Taiwan has experienced no local transmission of the virus for over 100 days, while many other countries worldwide continue to struggle with increasing numbers. Of the 467 confirmed cases, over 400 of them were from overseas arrivals and an outbreak on a naval ship, leaving less than 100 cases the result of citizen-to-citizen transmission within the country. The success in the battle against COVID-19 in Taiwan is largely attributed to a few key factors.

Healthcare in Taiwan

The pre-existing infrastructure of Taiwan’s healthcare system proved to be a vital tool in their successful approach toward fighting COVID-19. Taiwan’s national health insurance exists as a universal, mandatory coverage system that applies to all residents and long-term visitors. A single-payer system powers this universal coverage, which receives most of its funding from payroll-based premiums. However, the government offers significant subsidies for certain groups including low-income households and civil servants, among others. Coverage encompasses preventative and primary care, along with more specialized sectors of treatment such as mental health services and hospital stays. Most care is provided through private providers.

The initial response to COVID-19 in Taiwan included an aggressive initial reaction to the virus. The country immediately developed rapid testing and widely distributed masks to healthcare workers and citizens. Though this universal system has existed in Taiwan since the late 1980s, it is a newer development that lent an unexpected hand in national COVID-19 defense.

Contact Tracing

A crucial component of Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 lies in its advanced immigration database and rapid information sharing system. This system helped tremendously in slowing the spread of the virus. Taiwan’s immigration database allows medical providers to access travel information for patients. This helped with early detection and determination of high-risk areas. Robust contact tracing allowed the Taiwanese government to rigorously track cases and put isolation protocols into place based on the data in order to contain larger community outbreaks.  “Digital fencing” identified individuals at greater risk in order to quarantine them. The Taiwanese government also put into place measures to support those facing isolation, including laundry services, meal assurance and transportation to medical appointments. These kinds of services offered further incentives for individuals to follow strict isolation protocols. Citizen’s cooperation helped to quickly suppress the spread of COVID-19 in Taiwan.

Cultural Advantages

The Taiwanese response to COVID-19 was also strengthened by a few cultures anomalies, including its prior battle with SARS in 2003. Immediately upon discovery of an abnormal respiratory illness out of Wuhan, Taiwan tightened its borders. They also began thorough testing on those arriving from affected areas. Taiwan also utilizes a historically transparent approach to public health, keeping its citizens informed and answering questions about the progression of the virus. This has led to a culture that tends to follow government guidance. Taiwan also has the additional advantage of an established culture of mask-wearing. While other countries struggle to adhere to mask guidelines, Taiwan transitioned more easily; masks were already a socially acceptable accessory.

Jazmin Johnson

Photo: The Diplomat

homelessness in taiwanHomelessness is a pervasive problem in all parts of the world, even in places that seem as technologically advanced as Taiwan. While Taiwan has made headlines for its fast-growing economy, its government has been stringent with social safety nets, providing little help or resources to their homeless population. The fact that homelessness in Taiwan is a problem at all is surprising. Taiwan has one of the lowest poverty rates in the world and a high rate of homeownership; almost 85% of households in Taiwan own their homes.

Even still, Taiwan does have a homeless problem, especially in the capital city of Taipei. While there are homeless shelters, most of them are privately funded and have long waiting lists to get in. But the major problem facing homeless people in Taiwan isn’t access to housing, it’s access to stable employment. With this in mind, local groups within Taipei have been creating innovative strategies to help the homeless within the city, which contains the majority of Taiwan’s homeless population. Here are some important facts about homelessness in Taiwan, as well as the creative solutions being proposed to help the homeless get off of the streets.

Demographics

The homeless are often under-counted. While almost 9,300 people were reported as homeless in 2017 (almost double the number reported in 2013) this statistic may not be completely accurate. As long as a person’s family has some form of housing, they would not be considered homeless even if they are currently sleeping on the streets. Without accurate data, the government and other organizations can not properly address the problem of homelessness in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s homeless tend to be elderly, male, blue-collar workers. The exporting of production-line jobs to China, combined with Taiwan’s increased housing prices, has caused many factory workers to lose their jobs and become homeless. The majority of the workforce was men over 50, who are now the majority of the homeless in Taiwan. While the average age of homeless people in Taiwan is 55, they usually have only received an elementary school education, making it hard for them to find employment.

Causes

Low birth rates contribute to homelessness in Taiwan. Wages are stagnant while prices increase, making it harder for people to afford to have children in Taiwan. This decrease in birth rates has led to an older population, which in turn leads to elderly people getting abandoned due to the lack of resources within a family.

There is a stereotype against the homeless. A common opinion among society in Taiwan is that homeless people are “naturally inclined” to become homeless, whether that be because they like to roam the streets or they simply dislike working. However, a 2013 study showed that 90% of homeless people were on the streets due to circumstances out of their control; long-term unemployment was cited as the number one reason for homelessness in Taiwan. In “Living Conditions of the Homeless in Taipei,” Shu-rong Li showed that almost 50% of people were homeless due to an inability to pay rent. Not only that, but landlords were more likely to deny renting to single men ages 55-65 because of concerns about their economic statuses.

There is not enough government housing in Taiwan. Only 3% of the total housing stock in Taiwan is publicly-funded government housing. Because of this, it can take up to seven years to get into public housing, whereas private housing is almost immediate. Private housing (outside of major cities) is the popular choice of homeless people who need a place to live.

Solutions

There are already groups working on the ground in Taipei to end homelessness in Taiwan. Their solutions usually center around helping the homeless get back into the workforce. The Homeless Taiwan Association provides just these opportunities: in the organization’s Hidden Taipei tours, they train and employ homeless people to give tours of the city. In its first year in 2015, the Hidden Taipei tours attracted almost 2,000 customers and received many favorable reviews.

Not only does the Homeless Taiwan Association employ homeless people, but the organization also works to provide shelter, social service, counseling, and legal aid to those on the streets. They say that the way forward to end homelessness in Taiwan is by helping the homeless become self-sufficient, changing the stigma around homelessness and enhancing the public understanding of poverty.

– Hannah Daniel
Photo: Pixabay

Prosperity in TaiwanAfter World War II, Taiwan faced severe poverty. The conflict between China and Japan ravaged the land, and the Chinese Civil War that followed brought about even more destruction. By then, the majority of the Taiwanese people lived in absolute poverty; over 60% of the population were farmers just scraping by. However, as of 2019, Taiwan’s GDP broke $1.2 trillion. With a Purchasing Power Parity of $52,300, Taiwan now ranks 19th highest in terms of GDP per capita. So, how did prosperity in Taiwan develop so quickly?

Foreign Aid

After the war, nations, especially the United States, provided aid for hundreds of millions. From 1950 to 1965, U.S. Aid accounted for roughly 6.5% of Taiwan’s GDP. The stimulus worked: the funds sparked Taiwan’s economy and resulted in self-sustainable and rapid economic growth. The country became part of a group called The Four Asian Tigers, consisting of Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The rapid industrialization of these nations pushed their economic growth rates near 8%, which is an extraordinarily high mark. In Taiwan’s case, this phenomenon became known as the Taiwan Miracle.

Agricultural Economy

When the Japanese occupied Taiwan, they established a tenant farming system. More than 70% of farmers were part of this system, where they labored only to give the majority of their harvest to their landlords. The distribution of land, wealth and power was absurdly unequal.

However, after the war, in 1949, Taiwan’s Provisional Governor, Chen Cheng, advocated for land reform that would allow farmers to own the land they toiled. The revolution took place without bloodshed. Moreover, rice yield went up 46% in just a 4-year span after the reform, from 1.037 million metric tons in 1948 to 1.517 million metric tons in 1952. This increased yield freed up a vast labor source, who left the farms and sought new opportunities.

Investing in People

With little natural resources on the island, Taiwan took to investing in its greatest asset: the people. An indicator called the Human Development Index score is calculated in regards to the standard of living, life expectancy and education of a country. Taiwan’s Human Development Index score of 0.880 ranks them 6th in Asia.

Taiwan’s investments in education led to valuable innovation. In 1987, Taiwan established the world’s first semiconductor foundry, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Today, TSMC is the third-largest producer of semiconductors, right behind South Korea’s Samsung and the United States’ Intel. These chips are found in electrical devices around the world, and, moreover, TSMC provides thousands of high-paying jobs. The current state of the Taiwanese economy sets a definitive difference from the agricultural economy just a few decades ago; prosperity in Taiwan is exponentially greater today than it used to be.

Conclusion

Taiwan’s rapid shift from poor to prosperous, also known as the Taiwan Miracle, demonstrates how foreign aid can greatly influence the development of a nation. Their story is one of rags to riches on a national scale.

Today, prosperity in Taiwan marks the country among the wealthiest in Asia despite its small size. Taiwan has experienced the first-hand benefits of aid; now, Taiwan has become a donor itself. The country works to lessen poverty, increase harvests and assist with medical care across the globe. Perhaps the countries receiving Taiwan’s aid will someday become the next helping hand, and the Taiwan Miracle will live on in the receiving and giving of other developing countries to continue the chain effect of poor to prosperous.

Jacob Pugmire
Photo: Unsplash