Taiwan Travel ActThe U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed the Taiwan Travel Act, allowing official travel between the U.S. and Taiwan. The State Department had previously placed restrictions on travel that prevented government officials from traveling to or from Taiwan. The enactment of the Taiwan Travel Act denounces these restrictions, encouraging diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the U.S.

Taiwan was previously a highly impoverished and war-torn country. Its development towards economic stability happened rapidly after the Taiwanese government began promoting the exportation of goods and global trade in the late 1960s. Since then, the quality of life in Taiwan has increased substantially. Forbes even awarded Taiwan the number one destination for people who are interested in moving to live in another country, naming it “the best place for quality of life as well as for personal finances” above any other country. However, the number of Taiwanese citizens relying on social welfare is continually increasing, and in 2012 the number of people living below the poverty line shot up nearly 30 percent.

Taiwan Travel Act: An Economic Enhancement

The Taiwan Travel Act enactment will help improve Taiwan’s failing economy by improving its economic relationship with the U.S. Taiwan’s economy relies heavily on exports, and the U.S. is Taiwan’s most important market for trade. However, Taiwan’s exportation of goods to the U.S has been steadily declining. Faced with a rapidly changing global market, Taiwan’s inability to compete with other countries stems from its inability to negotiate better trade agreements and forge more mutually beneficial partnerships.

The Taiwan Travel Act states that it is now the policy of the U.S. to encourage the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and any other instrumentality established by Taiwan, to conduct business in the United States. This includes activities that involve participation by Members of Congress, officials of Federal, State or local governments of the U.S, or any high-level official of Taiwan. This change will drastically improve the economic potential of Taiwan, allowing its leaders to negotiate on behalf of their best economic interests and stop trade decline.

– Jenae Atwell

Photo: Flickr

sustainable developmentOn September 15, Taiwan released its first Voluntary National Review at a forum meeting in New York. Taiwan has been working toward meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals despite it not being a U.N. member.

The government of Taiwan has been actively establishing partnerships in agriculture, public health, education, environmentalism and information and communications technology. These partnerships have allowed Taiwan to advance its development in the areas of poverty, education, hunger, health and gender equality.

Additionally, Taiwan has an active recycling system, which has been introduced in Romania, where it is also being implemented. This system allows for the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate water bottles, benefitting the environment and communities of Taiwan.

Taiwan’s sustainable development efforts have also been working toward eliminating other harmful toxins found in items such as cosmetics. Beginning in January 2018, the nation will be prohibiting the production of cosmetics that contain small plastic particles, and fewer stores will be allowed to offer free plastic bags to customers.

The nation has already been seeing the positive effects of its environmentalist efforts. According to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act, Taiwan’s carbon dioxide emissions are expected to reduce by half of the 2005 volume by 2050. The efforts being made by the Taiwanese government are benefiting the nation’s most vulnerable. By tackling climate change and other environmental issues, Taiwan is protecting its citizens who live off the land.

Additionally, Taiwan is seeking improvements in its healthcare, universal education and women’s political participation, which will provide more resources for the nation’s poor and historically subjugated groups. Working alongside a number of other countries, Taiwan has been successfully fighting diseases including Zika, Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

If Taiwan’s sustainable development continues to improve, the nation will see an increase in health, educational and employment opportunities and a decrease in poverty and the gender gap, which will put Taiwan on par with major developed countries.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr

Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), is not a United Nations member and therefore does have a United Nations High Commission for Refugees office. However, the country has made great strides to provide for refugees all over the world. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Taiwan.

10 Facts About Refugees in Taiwan

  1. Taiwan does not yet accept refugees into the country, but, in July 2016, draft legislation for a refugee law passed its first of three legislative committee reviews. This new law, if passed, would ease the asylum process into Taiwan and allow it to take in more refugees.
  2. However, in 1981, Taiwan was one of the only Asian countries to grant temporary asylum to refugees and offered permanent settlements to all who reach its shores. However, this stopped after several hijackings of planes by Chinese asylum seekers in the 1990s.
  3. In addition, in January 2009, the Legislative Yuan passed an amendment to the National Immigration Act to allow anyone who is persecuted in their country to apply for residency. This really only involved the neighboring those from Myanmar, Tibet, Chinese dissidents or others in a “refugee-like situation,” rather than actual refugees.
  4. Although Taiwan currently does not accept refugees, since 1963, approximately 150,000 illegal Chinese immigrants have entered the country seeking refuge from the communist government.
  5. As a result of this huge annual illegal immigration rate, Taiwan has cracked down on illegal Chinese immigrants since 2003. This crackdown includes the trend of “foreign brides” that has risen in the last two decades.
  6. To compensate for not accepting refugees, two Taiwanese organizations, The Rising People Foundation and a nonprofit organization established by William Hsieh, have launched “Casa di Love,” to build a refugee facility on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The organizations will spend $0.37 million over the next three years to build the facility that will give shelter to refugees all over the world.
  7. In addition, Taiwan donated 10 prefabricated houses to Caritas, an organization in Jordan, to provide housing for 41 Syrian refugees.
  8. In 2013, Taiwan donated 5,000 sets of solar-LED lights to the Azraq Refugee Camp. In 2015, Taiwan signed a $100,000 grant with the International Medical Corps Jordan Country Office to support Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
  9. With the recent movements trying to ban refugees in the United States, Taiwan is now trying to push its own refugee law through the legislative process to allow refugees to seek permanent settlements in the country. Taiwan hopes the acceptance of refugees will stimulate the economy and help the country to become a tech power and be able to further separate itself from China.
  10. Although Taiwan helps refugees all around the world, many of its own citizens have fled the country due to China’s hold on the territory. More than half of all Taiwan refugees reside in the United States, accounting for around 360,000 Taiwanese people.

These 10 facts about refugees in Taiwan show the evolution of Taiwan from a place of solitude to quite the opposite in the 1990s, to once again trying to reinstate the country as a “land of fortune” for both global refugees and its own citizens.

Amira Wynn

Taiwan is leading the way on international food aid projects to alleviate malnutrition abroad. The island nation off the coast of China, whose sovereignty is the center of political debate, is home to more than 23 million Taiwanese.

With a literacy rate higher than 98 percent, an estimated GDP per capita of $47,800 and the unemployment rate of almost four percent in 2016, poverty and hunger in Taiwan aren’t seemingly large issues. In 2012, there was an estimated 1.5 percent of the population living below the line of poverty.

It is debated whether Taiwan should be considered a developed or a developing country. When it comes to the topic of hunger, Taiwan is actually a leader in providing food for others who are suffering around the globe. Over the past few years, the country has begun producing many foods within their own borders with a focus on self-sustainability.

According to Food for the Poor, Taiwan has spent more than the past ten years, “providing life-saving food for hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti and many other countries.” At the end of last year, Taiwan was even specifically thanked by a group of volunteers from Africa for the significant role the country is taking on in alleviating world hunger.

In 1985, after nearly 20 years of help from abroad, World Vision Taiwan reached a point to be able to handle the hunger issues within their own country. Since then, Taiwan has been giving to hunger initiatives in more than 70 countries.

It’s clear that the issue is not so much those dealing with hunger in Taiwan — instead of that, “Taiwan is making tremendous contributions to combating global challenges such as poverty and hunger.” With famine and malnutrition being a life-threatening reality for many right now, perhaps other countries can follow Taiwan’s lead.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Taiwan

The calculation of poverty in Taiwan is a bit different. Families are considered poor if their monthly income is below a threshold set by the city or province. This means only 1.78% of the population, or about 130,000 people, are considered poor.

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 $337 in Taipei City.

The low percentage of poverty in Taiwan is not a coincidence, but rather is the result of 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, there are problems in the government’s standards for calculating poverty rates. In 2004, the Taipei Times reported an interesting example. In Taiwan, low-income households are provided 13 benefits and services by the government such as living subsidies, medical grants and emergency funds.

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.

Looking at it from a cultural perspective, the article points out that the tradition of extended families living altogether (usually three generations under one roof) is starting to break down. “The family are no longer as close-knit as they once were. Grown children, for example, do not necessarily care for their elderly parents,” reports Cindy Sui.

Despite some of these structural problems with the government subsidies, many NGOs are working to help those who are not regarded as poor but who nevertheless are barely getting by.

One of the most prominent organizations is the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families. Promoting and advocating for the well-being of children, youth, and underprivileged families, the organization was formed in 1950 and now has a force of 8,000 volunteers.

Although the percentage of those in poverty is very low, the Taiwanese are worried that the poverty line is not high enough. Looking at the cultural and financial conditions, there are definitely areas that need improvement.

Dilara Alemdar

Photo: Flickr


Taiwan suffered its worst drought since 1947 this past winter. Beginning in the October of 2014, the Asian island’s government was forced to impose water restrictions in order to preserve their dropping supply.

At first, water used for irrigation was reduced, as a large portion of Taiwan’s water stored in reservoirs is directed toward agriculture.

When rain shortages persisted, the government opted to enact three phases of public water limits. The first phase decreased water pressure during nighttime hours.

In February of 2015, the government implemented phase two and cut back on the amount of water used at large industrial plants.

The severity of the drought eventually called for phase three, which impacted Taiwanese residents the most. The government shut off the public water supply for most living in a large part of northern Taiwan.

For 1.16 million households, there was access to running water only five days out of the week. Businesses were forced to shorten their work week, and people found clever ways to preserve water.

“When I cook, I collect the water from washing vegetables and use that to flush the toilet,” explained one resident. People also opted for short showers instead of baths. They then took water collected from their shower to flush toilets.

Some businesses, like the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, successfully altered their operations. They went from using around 350,000 tons of water per day to just 90,000, and their company’s productions went untouched by the restrictions.

All of the government’s water rationing saved around 212,000 tons of water each day.

With the start of Taiwan’s rainy season came the return of wet weather. Most of the restrictions have since been withdrawn.

Still, the government is discouraging people from returning to their previous habits. The PResident of Taiwan hopes to decrease the country’s water usage by 10% by the year 2030. Ambitiously, he wants it to drop by 30% over a more extended period.

Frederick Chou is a professor at the National Cheng University in Taiwan. There, he works in the Department of Hydraulic and Ocean Engineering.

“Actually, Taiwan has a lot of water,” says Chou, “If you can find ways to adjust things, people could use a lot more of it.”

Each day, a Taiwanese citizen uses 72 gallons of water. That rate is higher than that in the United States and Europe.

The island’s water costs only 30 cents for each ton. That is the least expensive price for running water in the world. The Taiwan Water Environment Association believes that the government should raise the cost in order to lessen usage.

It is not just human practices that need to be addressed. Many reservoirs have faulty pipes that leak about 600 million tons every year. Replacing iron pipes with plastic ones would avoid water loss. Nearly a hundred reservoirs in Taiwan are, on average, at about 50% full, while some are at only at 25%. The Water Research Agency is planning its biggest action plan yet.

It is reported that more than a billion people, one-sixth of the world’s population, lack access to fresh water. Most of that billion lives in developing countries.

If the world keeps consuming at its current rate, per capita available water will drop. In result, 7 billion people could face water insecurity. With the escalation of climate change, the world could be confronting this reality sooner than previously thought.

– Lillian Sickler

Sources: ABC, Channel News Asia, The Guardian, LA Times, NPR, The Straits Times, University of Wisconsin, The Week,,
Photo: The Jerusalem Post

Since the end of the Second World War, the face of malnutrition in Taiwan has changed dramatically. Once among the ranks of third world nations, Taiwan has enjoyed meteoric economic growth over the past seventy years. This growth has raised living standards, reduced poverty and eliminated undernutrition as a development issue. But despite this newfound prosperity, Taiwan continues to face malnutrition in the form of obesity and poor diets.

Between 1895 and 1945, Japan ruled over Taiwan as an imperial master. Over these five decades, Japan structured the island as a satellite granary. Taiwan’s principal crops became sugar and rice, and by the 1930s, Taiwan exported more than half of its agricultural output to the Japanese home islands. In fact, according to researcher Samuel Ho, the amount of rice available for consumption in Taiwan had fallen 24 percent by the 1940s. Although Japanese administrators modernized Taiwanese agriculture and invested in transportation infrastructure, they did little to improve the lot of the poorest Taiwanese: real wages remained low and malnutrition prevalent.

Soon after the end of Japanese rule, Taiwan found itself in a position to tackle malnutrition. No longer Japan’s offshore breadbasket, Taiwanese farmers saw export markets for their crops collapse. They thus began putting significantly less of their rice crop on the market and retaining more for home consumption. In addition, the Taiwanese government implemented land reforms that broke up large agricultural estates and turned tenant farmers into landowners. Combined with other “pro-farmer” policies and a growing industrial export sector, Taiwan had effectively eliminated malnutrition by the early 1970s.

But with the development of an advanced economy in Taiwan, malnutrition has resurfaced as a public health concern. According to University of Washington sources, dietary risks are the second-greatest contributor to Taiwan’s disease burden. Whereas most Taiwanese were once unable to afford a varied, nutritious diet, many now eschew healthy eating electively. To add to this concern, contemporary Taiwanese suffer from increasing rates of obesity: 31 percent of females and 41 percent of males were overweight in 2013, and obesity in people under 20 has increased by more than 50 percent since 1980. This “double burden” of malnutrition — undernutrition paired with obesity — among Taiwan’s youth may foretell the resurgence of malnutrition in Taiwan as a public health issue.

Recent research also suggests that cultural norms may perpetuate patterns of malnutrition in Taiwan. Researchers Lin and Tsai find that girls born to “marital immigrant” parents (in which one spouse — usually the wife — hails from abroad, typically Southeast Asia in the case of Taiwan) are significantly shorter and lighter than Han Chinese girls. Lin and Tsai note that Taiwanese men who marry immigrant women are disproportionately disadvantaged economically and physically. These men face immense pressure to preserve the family line, leading them to spoil their sons at the expense of their daughters. Given such ongoing changes in Taiwanese society, malnutrition in Taiwan may prove more intractable than previously thought.

– Leo Zucker

Sources: Malnutrition in Taiwan, Nutrilite Economic History Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Nutritional Research
Photo: World Vision International

The Tzu Chi Foundation is a globally immersed Chinese Buddhist humanitarian organization that is originated and based in Taiwan. It was founded in 1999 by the Buddhist nun Cheng Yen and is a volunteer organization that provides aid to roughly 70 nations worldwide.

The foundation is present in all of the world’s five major continents and maintains offices in 47 different countries.

The organization’s website clearly delineates its goals and mission. The group’s four expressed goals are referred to as its “Four Major Missions” of charity, medical help and attention, education and humanity. It also focuses on four other venues: bone marrow donation efforts, environmental considerations, community volunteering and international relief.

Their four goals combine with these considerations to form “Tzu Chi’s Eight Footprints.”

Tzu Chi maintains consultative relations with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Its members are often referred to as “blue angels” due to their signature blue uniforms. The group has built numerous villages, nursing homes, schools and hospitals across the world. It also maintains the Tzu Chi International Medical Association, which includes professional doctors who travel in times of international disaster to provide medical relief to victims.

The group also acted closer to home than many U.S. citizens may know or think. After Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey, Tzu Chi members personally dispersed $10 million total in $300 and $600 Visa credit gift cards to victims in the area.

Its efforts abroad are plentiful and very personalized, illustrating an admirable method of involved humanitarianism. For example, after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, Tzu Chi members brought blankets, nourishment and medical aid to the disaster-stricken area. The group also focuses on very impoverished areas in China and elsewhere, distributing rice, oil, blankets, clothes and medical services to those in need.

The organization ignores ethnic, religious, national or racial boundaries or restrictions, but instead spreads Buddhist principles of morality, kindness, humanism and selflessness. Furthermore, they provide both instant and long-term infrastructural solutions to community problems throughout the world.

Tzu Chi is making a difference one blue angel at a time.

Arielle Swett

Sources: Tzu Chi, The Register

Many people living barely above the poverty line in Taiwan will now have access to much needed welfare programs. Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare recently changed the maximum income eligible for welfare assistance in numerous areas of the country. The change will mean that an additional thousands of people will qualify for assistance.

The poverty line increase is broken down into low and middle income categories and will vary based on region. For those who live in a majority of Taiwan, a low-income household will now qualify with an income of NT$10,869 (US $347), instead of the previous amount of NT$10,244. The medium-low income families will see an increase from NT$15,366 to NT$16,304.

These numbers vary in the counties Kinmen and Lienchiang, which will increase the poverty line for low-income households from NT$8,798 to NT$9,769. Medium-income families can expect the line to increase from NT$13,197 to NT$14,654. Five other municipalities will raise the threshold from NT$11,066 to NT$11,860, and the remaining regions have yet to specify their intended increases.

The implications of these new poverty lines are vast, given that about 50,000 more people will have access to welfare programs in Taiwan. These programs include household living costs, education fees, and national health insurance premiums. Since one of the factors affecting a country’s economic development is health care availability, these assistance programs will aid in improving Taiwan’s overall economy and citizen well-being.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Focus Taiwan, Taipei Times
Photo: BBC

October 1, 2013 marked the opening ceremony of the International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking in Taipei City, Taiwan. The workshop serves to stimulate conversation and collaboration for human rights protection and is organized by the National Immigration Agency under the Ministry of the Interior. Around 200 policy experts and officials from Taiwan and abroad attended, including those from Brazil, Canada, Vietnam, the U.K. and 16 other countries.

Vice President of the Republic of China (ROC), otherwise known as Taiwan, Wu Den-yih, took a staunch stance against human trafficking at the opening ceremony. He stated that protecting human rights is a universal value that needs international attention. He also highlighted the firm commitment of the ROC government against human trafficking and violations of human rights.

In the days after the opening ceremony, the workshop hosted six discussion panels ranging from topics pertaining the protecting the youth from sex crimes to trying to prevent modern-day slavery and labor exploitation. Many guest speakers were featured at panels, including officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This year was the fourth consecutive year that the U.S. State Department awarded Taiwan the Tier 1 status of the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, based on the government’s effort to fight human trafficking. While the Department of State places countries into one of three tiers, this ranking has no indication of the prevalence of human trafficking in the country, or lack thereof. The ranking simply acknowledges the effort a government has made to make human trafficking a pressing concern in the national political discourse and to attempt to address the problem.

Nevertheless, Taiwan’s ranking demonstrates its commitment of protecting human rights and ending human trafficking. In recent years, Taiwan has been improving law enforcement training, strengthening support services by building shelters and providing temporary work, and establishing policy strictly prosecuting traffickers, such as the Human Trafficking Prevention Act.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: UNPO, AIT, US State Department
Photo: American Institute in Taiwan