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The Report on Women's Status in TaiwanˇG

Working Status

ˇ@ˇ@In recent years, around 45% of the women in Taiwan have participated in the work force. Furthermore, women have contributed as much as men to Taiwan's economic development. However, due to the influence of the traditional stereotypes of gender roles and public policy, women are still expected to take the responsibility for the home and, thus become the so-called secondary workers in the labor market. Most often, the gender discrimination also rules the working places.

Women's Role in Taiwan's Economic Development

ˇ@Taiwan is famous for the rapid economic development, especially the tremendous increase of the GNP and the national income. How much have women contributed to this progress? One possible indicator is the participation rate of women. Women's participation rate was only 35.81%--while men's participation rate was 86.37%--, and it increased to 42.12% in 1983 and 45.51% in 1986. And it has been around 45% since then (Table 10) (Table 11). If we include the efforts of women who are unpaid workers and housewives, the role women play in the economic development is irreplaceable.

ˇ@To analyze the influence of women, we can observe the development of the labor industry, the service industry, and the small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs).

ˇ@In 1966, the first manufacture and export center in Taiwan joined the industrial line. Together with the other two export centers, established by the Ministry of Economics in 1971, these centers have become a main gate to foreign investors. In addition to the encouragement of the government, the plentiful and cheap labor force attracted many foreign businessmen to invest in Taiwan. For example, half of the foreign entrepreneurs who came to invest in 1976 put their resources in the manufacture centers. The foreign investors in Taiwan who benefited the most from the development of the world economy usually imported cheap materials and exported manufactured goods including clothes, shoes, toys, leather and electronic products. They combined the advantages of imported materials, the cheap cost of the facility and the low wages of domestic female laborers. It was the young female laborers at the great cost that enabled the economic miracle in Taiwan to happen.

ˇ@ˇ@While female workers are gradually becoming the main force in the labor market, the industry in Taiwan is also being transformed. One important phenomenon is that the percentage of the service industry, the so-called "the third industry", has increased rapidly and has taken over as the leading sector. For example, the overall economic growth rate in 1996 was 5.7%; and that of the service industry was 4.2% which contributed 70% of the total growth. If we compare the change by industry, we see that in 1987 the service industry had a growth rate of 48% while the growth rate of the labor industry was 47%. However, in 1996, the service industry became the largest sector at 61% while the labor industry was down to 36%. Thus, the distribution of female laborers was also transformed. Women constituted about 37% of the laborer in the service sector in 1978 and increased to around 62% in 1997 (Table 6) (Table 7). In contrast, the percentage of men in the service sector was reduced from about 35% to 46% in the same period. It is obvious to see that women have contributed greatly to the economic growth of Taiwan.

ˇ@The third area in which the role of women can not be ignored is the Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which have made up the majority of the business companies in Taiwan. Women constituted the majority of the work force in these companies. Encouraged by the economic policy in the 50s, women played the roles of accountants, cooks, laborers, housewives and bosses in order to support their families. Scholars have found that the productive and marketing network of the enterprises in Taiwan are dependent on the family network, which is a network of emotions and relationships, and women are binding force.

ˇ@With the upgrade of women's education and the awareness of economic independence, the influence that women have in the economy is also advancing. As the adult illiteracy rate is being reduced, the ratio of women at higher educational levels is increasing. For example, in 1978, female workers with a university degree or above only composed 1.06% of the overall female laborers, and the female population that graduated from occupational senior high schools was 4.19%. In 1997, the former increased to 6.17% and the latter jumped to 14.14% (Table 5). The access to technical and professional fields has gradually opened up to women and, therefore, the number of women who hold decision-making powers has increased (Table 18).

Disadvantages of the Economic Development to Women

ˇ@ The Cost Analysis of the "Economic Miracle"

ˇ@ˇ@The economic miracle in Taiwan is a mixed-blessing for women in general. The only source of income for most women is in the secondary labor market which includes jobs in beauty salons, sales clerks, electronic manufacturing, and food supply. The traditional gender stereotype manifests itself in the phenomenon that women are inclined to work in the service industry or in a non-decisive position, while men make up the majority of the physical and mechanical laborers in the steal, electronics, construction and transportation industries. This gender segregation blocks women's access to career development opportunities.

ˇ@ˇ@What has worsened the situation regarding the rights of female laborers is the change in the local industry. The human-capital-type industry has been under great pressure due to the cost increases and the competition with other economies since 1987. Many industries have shut down, moved to where manpower is cheaper (like mainland China and Korea), or hired foreign laborers to replace local labor. Due to incomplete legal protection, many employees can not receive legal compensation or their pension, or they only get half of their entitlement. Some employers have avoided their responsibility and refused to pay anything. (see also The Report on Women's Status in Taiwan: Legal Status)

ˇ@ˇ@The pressure of competing with foreign laborers needs more explanation. According to governmental statistics, the unemployment rate among Taiwanese increased in 1996 and the number of employees decreased by 10 to 11 thousand. The main reasons were the closures of enterprises and factories. In addition, those statistics are also affected by that of foreign laborers now in Taiwan. However, the remaining companies discriminated against middle-aged laborers by setting upper age limit and educational levels for recruitment.

ˇ@ Increased Gender Discrimination in the Labor Market

ˇ@ˇ@There is a great deal of gender discrimination in the labor market. Take the access to jobs as an example. About 70% of the advertisement for recruiting managers, assistant managers or professional workers is limited to men, while the same percentage of those advertisements for secretaries, accountants and service-attendants is for women (Table 8) (Table 9). The situation in the field of public participation is similar: the female representatives or leading bureaucrats don't even amount to one fifteenth of men, and only one tenth of the women are in a leading position (Table 17) (Table 32). The fact that women have less power than men is also manifested in the following ways. First, women's average salary is 71.6% of men's (Table 16). Second, research shows that 25% of the interviewees have been sexually harassed in the workplace.

ˇ@ The Burden of Households

ˇ@ˇ@Another disturbance to women's careers is the traditional burden of the household and care-giving. Since society still doesn't recognize the value of the household and the responsibility of health care, women can't help but solve their problems by themselves (See also the Welfare). According to several statistics, the amount of time women spend on housekeeping is five times what men spend and about 34% of married women quit their jobs to take care of their families (Table 14). In 1997, the percentage of unpaid female laborers was 15.25%, compared to men's 3.23% (Table 15). This implies that women's contribution to the economy is undervalued or overlooked.

ˇ@ˇ@What do all these phenomena imply? They imply that women's economic autonomy is much less than men's. Furthermore, it may give employers the impression that female laborers or even managers are unstable or that women are not willing to work. As a result, the economic situation of women is unstable, too. A researcher has found that the chance for a single mother to become poor is 20% to 25% (Table 28; see also the Welfare).

ˇ@ˇ@Women are expected to play a secondary role in the family economy. When men find jobs, women stay at home to keep houses; when men are unemployed, women go out to work and earn a living. This unstable pattern of employment is definitely a negative factor in regards to women's promotion or advancement in the workplace.


ˇ@ˇ@Women have contributed to the economic development of Taiwan by being supportive and by suffering. Women have had more and more opportunity for higher education and more professional positions; however, they don't share the equivalent rewards of economic growth as men do since men are more powerful in the field of economics than women. This can be observed in the inequity of wages, promotions, secondary employment and distribution of household (Table 17). Even in those occupations in which women are the majority, like the service industry and administrative staff, on an average men earn about ten thousand dollars more than women. The gender gap is even bigger for those who have a low educational level. For those women who are in the lowest level of the working pyramid, they need a stronger public support system to prevent them from falling below the poverty line.

The Report on Women's Status in Taiwan, 1998
ˇ¸ Legal Status ˇ¸ Welfare Resources ˇ¸ Population and Family ˇ¸ Education
ˇ¸ Physical Safety ˇ¸ Working Status ˇ¸ Political Involvement ˇ¸ Health
ˇ¸ Statistics Related to the Women's Status Report

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