Poverty in Taiwan

Poverty in Taiwan

Taiwan, located in East Asia, is bordered by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast and the Philippines to the south. It is home to approximately 25 million people and boosts a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of more than $32,000 in 2022.

Calculation of Poverty

The calculation of poverty in Taiwan is different. Families are considered poor if their monthly income is below a threshold set by the city or province. This means only 1.3% of the population or about 300,000 people, lived below the poverty line or were considered vulnerable in 2021. Each city in Taiwan has a different monthly income that is considered as a minimum. For example, while a family’s minimum income should be $171 to meet their basic needs in Kinmen County, the minimum is about $587.46 in Taipei City as of 2023.

Taiwan’s Poverty Alleviation Efforts and Challenges

The low percentage of poverty in Taiwan is not a coincidence. It is the result of the efforts of the Taiwanese government alongside various civic organizations, private foundations and academic institutions. For example, in 1999, the government spent $5.08 billion on social welfare programs. However, the government’s standards for calculating poverty rates have problems. In 2004, the Taipei Times reported an interesting example. In Taiwan, the government provides 13 benefits and services, such as living subsidies, medical grants and emergency funds, to low-income households.

These services are given on an “all or nothing” basis, so if a family rises slightly above the poverty threshold, they lose their rights to all of these services. The article reports, “Given this ‘all or nothing system,’ low-income households do not wish to rise above the poverty line, for if they do, they would really fall into poverty.”

In 2011, the government raised the poverty line. With this, an additional 588,000 people became eligible for social assistance and subsidies. The article “Changing Times Force Taiwan to Raise Welfare Spending” notes the tradition of taking care of one’s elders, which means taking care of them financially, as a reason for the necessity of raising the poverty line.

From a cultural standpoint, the article notes that the tradition of extended families living together (typically three generations under one roof) is beginning to break down.“The family is no longer as close-knit as they once were. Grown children, for example, do not necessarily care for their elderly parents,” reports Cindy Sui.

Taiwan Fund for Children and Families

Despite some of these structural problems with government subsidies, many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are working to help those who are not regarded as poor but who, nevertheless, are barely getting by. The Taiwan Fund for Children and Families is one of the most prominent organizations. It was formed in 1950 and now has a force of 8,000 volunteers. The organization promotes and advocates for the well-being of children, youth and underprivileged families.

Although the percentage of people living in poverty is very low, there is concern among the Taiwanese that the poverty line is not set high enough. Considering the cultural and financial conditions, certain areas require improvement.

Dilara Alemdar

Photo: Flickr
Updated: May 30, 2024