Children and Juveniles
Taiwan’s under-18 age group has been shrinking in recent years as birth rates 185 continue to decline. At the end of 2008, it accounted for 21.12 percent of the population, with children younger than 12 years of age making up 12.74 percent and juveniles aged 12 to 17 constituting 8.38 percent. The Child and Youth Welfare Act pertains to these groups. Protecting the rights and welfare of children and juveniles in the country is the responsibility of the Child Welfare Bureau under the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), together with relevant local government departments.
An all-encompassing children safety program has been implemented to protect children from domestic violence and sexual abuse; to ensure that school environments are safe and free of violence, drugs and gangs; to enforce rating systems for print media, television and Internet content; and to ensure the safety of food, toys and transportation vehicles.
Since 2002, subsidies for medical treatment of children under the age of three have been provided as co-payment for services covered under Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) program. Starting January 1, 2009, such subsidies have been extended to children and juveniles under 18 belonging to middle- and low-income families.
Low-income families and individuals are defined as having monthly per capita income below the minimum living expenses standard for selected areas of the ROC. This standard is set at 60 percent of the average per capita living expenditures of a given administrative area over the most recent statistical year, and the annually adjusted figure is published by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS). Middle- to low-income is defined as those whose average per capita income exceeds the aforementioned minimum living expenses standard, but is not greater than 2.5 times that standard for the family’s region of residence.
For example, the minimum living expenses standard in 2008 for areas of Taiwan other than the special municipalities of Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, as well as Taipei County, which is soon to become a special municipality, was NT$9,660 (US$307). The figure was raised to NT$9,829 (US$312) in February 2009. Thus, families living in areas other than these municipalities with average per-family-member monthly income of less than US$312 qualify as low-income families for purposes of social welfare policy. Those with average per-family-member monthly income between US$312 and US$780 are categorized as middle- to low-income families. Other limitations, such as those on total household savings, also apply when determining eligibility for such subsidies.
Since April 2008, working parents with an annual pre-tax household income below NT$1.5 million (US$47,600) and children under 2 years of age have been entitled to a childcare subsidy of NT$3,000 (US$95) per child per month. Low-income families with disabled children can receive NT$5,000 (US$160) per child per month. Developmentally delayed and mentally or physically challenged children can also receive aid for early treatment and education. Community assistance is provided to children and juveniles of disadvantaged families through social welfare organizations working in conjunction with local governments.
Special protections are extended to individuals up to 20 years of age. The Labor Standards Act (LSA) prohibits employers from hiring people under 15 (see the “Labor” section), while the Domestic Violence Prevention Act requires relevant agencies to provide protection and shelter to child and juvenile victims of domestic violence. The ROC’s Criminal Code dictates lengthy prison sentences for adults who engage in sexual intercourse with any person under 16. In addition, the Child and Youth Sexual Transaction Prevention Act stipulates imprisonment, detention and fines for any person who has sexual relations with a person under 18.
People in need also have access to help through a wide variety of hotlines. To expedite the handling of domestic violence cases, for example, 24-hour hotlines have been set up for women and children. As of 2008, 105 public and private placement and residential institutions provided accommodation and care for about 3,430 abused and abandoned children.
Taiwan became an aging society in 1993 when it crossed the 7-percent threshold as defined by the World Health Organization. At the end of 2008, more than 10 percent of the population was 65 or older and the old-age dependency ratio stood at 14.36 percent. According to the Council for Economic Planning and Development, Taiwan’s elderly population will surpass 20 percent by 2025, making long-term care for the elderly a pressing public policy issue.
As the majority of the elderly in Taiwan currently live with their children, spouses or other family members, home and community care services are the primary types of such assistance offered to senior citizens. The MOI allocates funds to local governments for the provision of home care for the elderly and for setting up support centers that teach nursing skills to family members and professional caregivers. Other services offered include free health checkups and influenza vaccinations; discounts on access to public transport, cultural and educational facilities; daycare and homecare services; lifelong learning programs and social activities, as well as free meal delivery. As of the end of 2008, 1,074 publicly and privately funded care centers with capacity for nearly 65,000 people were providing institutional care services to the elderly.
Senior citizens of low and middle income not receiving institutional care are granted monthly living allowances between NT$3,000 (US$95) and NT$6,000 (US$190). As of December 2008, more than 1.5 million had received such subsidies since inception of the program in 1993. In addition, the government provides a monthly special care allowance of NT$5,000 (US$160) to families taking care of elderly members incapable of performing everyday tasks.
A 10-year long-term care system was launched in April 2007. With a budget of around US$2.6 billion to be spent over the following 10 years, the program aims to provide long-term care to senior citizens in need of round-the-clock nursing.
In July 2007, the Legislative Yuan passed the National Pension Act, which stipulates that anyone aged 25 to 65 who is not covered by social insurance programs for laborers, farmers, members of the military, civil servants and teachers shall be included in the national pension program. By covering the unemployed, non-working spouses and freelancers, among others, the scheme extends the ROC’s social safety net to its entire adult population.
The National Pension System went into effect on October 1, 2008. As of May 2009, about 4.2 million people had elected to be covered. Insurants reaching the age of 65 receive monthly pension payments for the rest of their lives. The pension amount depends on the premiums paid over the years. Elderly who were already 65 at the time of the program’s implementation are exempt from paying premiums but receive monthly payments of NT$3,000 (US$95) until death (see table “National Pension System vs. Labor Insurance Annuity”). Low-income and severely disabled insured persons pay no insurance premiums, while different degrees of premium subsidy, ranging from 55 percent to 70 percent, are provided to less disadvantaged individuals.
Gender equality and women’s rights are the purview of the Commission on Women’s Rights Promotion under the Executive Yuan, as well as the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Committee and the Foundation of Women’s Rights Promotion and Development (FWRPD), both under the MOI.
In October 2008, the FWRPD held an international seminar regarding the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to familiarize government and non-government sectors with CEDAW mechanisms and international standards. A national report on women’s rights in the country was completed in March 2009 for Taiwan’s potential bid to become a signatory of the CEDAW. Additionally, the Taiwan Women’s Center was inaugurated on March 8, 2008 to mark International Women’s Day.
Collective marriage ceremony amid the visual splendor of the Formosa Boulevard Station of the Kaohsiung MRT.
In conjunction with the event, findings released by the DGBAS in March 2009 indicated that Taiwan had the second-highest Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) scores in Asia. Globally, Taiwan’s GDI ranked 22nd and GEM 24th. The findings were calculated using the same formulas employed by the United Nations Development Program. The GDI measures the life expectancy of women, as well as their crude education rate, adult literacy rate and estimated earned income. The GEM reflects the number of female lawmakers, administrators and managers, professional and technical workers, as well as women’s share of earned income.
Among laws in Taiwan that promote gender equality, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act governs the handling of domestic violence cases and authorizes the issuance of civil protective orders to guard victims’ rights and interests. The Gender Equality in Employment Act stipulates that men and women shall enjoy equal rights and fair treatment in their places of employment, and that the principle of equal pay for equal work is to be respected. Employers demonstrating gender discrimination or failing to set up mechanisms to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace are subject to fines of up to NT$500,000 (US$15,900). The act also ensures female employees the right to eight weeks’ paid maternity leave, and up to two years of parental leave.
A revision to the Employment Insurance Act in March 2009 entitles each parent to parental leave for six months with a subsidy of 60 percent of the amount of the individual’s monthly salary upon which employment insurance premiums are based and from which premiums are deducted.
For women who wish to start a small business, the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) provides micro start-up loans that are interest free for the first two years.
As of the end of 2008, over 1,040,500 people in Taiwan were registered as disabled and US$1.12 billion was allocated that year for welfare services to the disabled.
A variety of public and private institutions serve people with specific disabilities, including visual, hearing and speech impairments, autism, stubborn epilepsy, chronic psychosis and severe facial damage. Services provided range from long-term nursing care to training and development programs. As of the end of June 2009, there were 267 such organizations in Taiwan assisting some 17,850 disabled.
Assistance for the disabled includes living allowances between US$95 and US$222 per month for those in middle- and low-income households; subsidies for medical expenses and social insurance premiums; preferential loans; tuition and tax exemptions; and free-of-charge access to public facilities. Other services involve creating obstacle-free environments and facilitating greater participation of the disabled in social activities.
The People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act requires that disabled persons make up at least 1 percent of the work force at private enterprises with 67 or more employees and at least 3 percent of the work force at government offices, public schools and enterprises with 34 or more employees. The right of the disabled to education is also protected, with many regular schools offering special classes. In the 2008 school year, Taiwan had 24 special education schools, where some 1,700 teachers taught 6,900 disabled students.
Indigenous grandmother and grandchild photographed in traditional garb.
Taiwan’s indigenous population (see Chapter 2, “People and Languages”) was nearly 500,000 in June 2009. It is served by the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Taipei City Government’s Indigenous Peoples Commission and the Kaohsiung City Government’s Commission of Indigenous Affairs.
Indigenous groups in Taiwan benefit from a number of social welfare programs. The Indigenous Peoples Employment Rights Protection Act stipulates that indigenous peoples should make up at least 1 percent of the work force at government agencies, public schools and enterprises with 100 or more employees. The government has worked to boost their employment opportunities, provide living allowance to indigenous senior citizens, enhance indigenous community health services, subsidize indigenous people’s health insurance premiums, and ensure their right to medical treatment.
Low-interest housing loans and rent subsidies are offered to middle- and low-income indigenous families. The senior high school and university entrance exam scores of indigenous students are increased by a certain percentage (35 percent if the student has passed an indigenous language proficiency test, 25 percent if not). The government awards 1,210 scholarships and 810 tuition subsidies for indigenous students studying in colleges and universities each semester. Eight full scholarships are also awarded each year to indigenous students for overseas studies and a special civil service examination is held for indigenous examinees.
The Indigenous Peoples Basic Act, passed in 2005, obligates the government to provide resources to help indigenous groups develop a system of self-governance, formulate policies to protect their basic rights, and promote the preservation and development of their languages and cultures.
Taiwan has a diversified and skilled work force of around 10 million people. The current minimum monthly wage in Taiwan is NT$17,280 (US$548), while the average unemployment rate in 2008 was 4.14 percent. According to the 2008 “Labor Force Evaluation Measure” report by Business Environment Risk Intelligence, Taiwan’s manpower quality ranks second in the world, on par with the United States and behind only Singapore, while securing the top spot for “Worker Attitude,” “Technical Skills Assessment” and” Relative Productivity Measure.”
Among several laws designed to protect workers’ rights, the Labor Standards Act delineates the rights and obligations of employees and employers, prescribes the minimum requirements for labor contracts, and has provisions on wages, work hours, leave, as well as the employment of women and children. The Employment Service Act (ESA) stipulates equal access to job opportunities and employment services, regulates public and private employment service agencies and encourages employment guidance for people with disabilities, indigenous groups, low-income families, female heads of households, the elderly and the unemployed. Recent amendments to the ESA allow foreigners to be hired as advisors or researchers by government agencies and their affiliated institutions without the need to apply for a work permit. The same applies to foreign lecturers or researchers hired by colleges and universities for up to six months as well as foreigners married to ROC nationals.
The Labor Safety and Health Act prohibits those under the age of 16 and women from working in dangerous or hazardous environments. The Act also requires companies with more than 300 employees and businesses engaged in potentially hazardous operations to set up an on-site medical center.
The Sexual Harassment Prevention Act defines sexual harassment as a crime and requires governments to establish sexual harassment prevention committees. Organizations with over 10 members or employees are required to provide channels for individuals to file complaints, while those with more than 30 members or employees must implement measures to prevent sexual harassment.
The revised Act for Settlement of Labor Disputes, ratified by the Legislature on June 5, 2009, put in place diverse channels to effectively deal with labor disputes. A mechanism to rectify unfair labor practices has also been instituted to ensure that workers are free to associate and can exercise their rights to bargain collectively and form labor unions. In addition, the procedures for calling a strike have been streamlined and the scope, conditions and areas under which it can be carried out have been clearly delineated.
A revised Labor Pension Act, which went into effect on July 1, 2005, allows qualified workers to join a labor pension program administered by the Bureau of Labor Insurance that provides pension distributions upon retirement regardless of the number of times a worker changes jobs or the total number of years that the worker has been employed. It features a portable individual labor pension account that moves with employees as they change jobs. Employers are required to make monthly payments not less than 6 percent of the workers’ monthly wages into employees’ pension accounts, while employees may also elect to pay up to 6 percent of their salary into the fund.
Under the program, employees reaching age 60 (who have worked for at least 15 years during which premiums were paid into their individual labor pension accounts) will be eligible to receive the aforementioned pension in monthly installments even if they elect to continue working. Those who have worked for less than 15 years since joining the program must withdraw their funds in one lump sum. As the program only went into effect in 2005, such lump sum payments will be mandatory for those electing to receive such distributions until 2020, when the program will have been in effect for 15 years.
In July 2008, the Legislature ratified amendments to the Labor Insurance Act to facilitate the implementation of the Labor Insurance Annuity (LIA) scheme. The biggest change in the new system, which went into effect on January 1, 2009, is to provide workers insured under the previous labor insurance scheme with the option to receive annuity payments monthly until they pass away instead of collecting a lump sum. However, a worker insured after the LIA implementation date can only receive monthly annuity payments.
The advantages claimed for the annuity system are that it facilitates lifelong economic security and avoids the risk that the value of a lump sum payment might be eroded over time by inflation or imprudent investment. Retirees are reminded that choosing to collect monthly annuity payments would result in receiving an aggregate amount equivalent to a lump sum in eight years (assuming no subsequent investment of the latter).
The Bureau of Labor Insurance also administers this program. Labor insurance payments by the employer and employee are summarized in the table “National Pension vs. Labor Insurance Annuity” and are in addition to any employer/employee payments made for the aforementioned Labor Pension. Qualified beneficiaries can receive payments from that pension scheme as well as the LIA program simultaneously.
Training, Wage and Income Subsidies
A host of measures has been implemented to help the business sector, workers and the unemployed weather the hard times resulting from the global financial crisis of 2008. In October 2008, the CLA implemented a hiring program that provides a monthly subsidy of NT$10,000 (US$317) for six months to enterprises hiring workers who have been unemployed for over three months. In addition, businesses that hire workers referred by public employment service stations will be subsidized at the rate of US$317 per worker per month for a maximum of one year.
In December 2008, the CLA launched a subsidy program to encourage businesses to conduct on-the-job training for employees. Small and medium-sized enterprises are eligible for subsidies of as much as NT$950,000 (US$30,000) for training expenses incurred, while big enterprises may receive a maximum of NT$1.9 million (US$60,000). Starting February 2009, employees on unpaid leave articipating in such training programs can receive subsidies provided that they undergo 16 to 100 hours of training per month.
Workers who are involuntarily unemployed can receive 60 percent of their averaged insured salary of the last six months of employment for up to six months. Unemployed workers belonging to disadvantaged groups receive 100 percent subsidies for undergoing vocational training, while other unemployed workers receive 80 percent. In addition, unemployed workers and their dependents are subsidized for payment of NHI premiums for up to a year. The CLA also provides workers with litigation expense subsidies in cases of labor disputes arising from unreasonable indemnities for job injuries or improper dismissals.
The Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) has formulated two employment-creation programs. The 2008-2009 Short-Term Employment Promotion Measures give preference to disadvantaged groups for job openings. The CEPD estimated that 46,000 job opportunities were created in 2008 and another 56,000 in 2009. The 2009-2012 Employment Promotion Program expands cooperation between the business and academic sectors, strengthens vocational training, seeks to boost the success rates of job seekers, provides wage subsidies and extends loans and assistance to start-ups and self-employed individuals. The program is expected to create about 48,000 job openings and make available around 240,000 training opportunities every year through 2012. The goal is to lower the unemployment rate to 3 percent by 2012.
As of the end of June 2009, the Farmers’ Health Insurance (FHI) program covered about 1.57 million farmers. This insurance program is administered by the MOI and local government agencies. All people over 15 years of age who engage in agricultural work for more than 90 days a year, or those who are members of a farmers’ association, are eligible for coverage under this program.
The program includes cash benefits for disability, maternity and funeral expenses. Farmers aged 65 and older are entitled to a NT$6,000 (US$190) monthly allowance, so long as they have been insured in the FHI for over six months and have not received any pension payment from other social insurance programs.
The government offers special subsidies, assistance, and both cash and non-cash benefits to low-income individuals and families. In August 2008, the MOI implemented an “immediate assistance” program, providing emergency relief to disadvantaged families and low-income households whose livelihoods are jeopardized due to the death, disappearance, unemployment, severe injury or illness of their chief income earner. Emergency aid between NT$10,000 (US$317) and NT$30,000 (US$952) is provided along with certain welfare services.
In January 2009, the Act for Assisting Families of Women in Hardship was amended and repurposed as the Act for Assisting Families in Hardship. The law stipulates that disadvantaged single parents under the age of 65 whose livelihoods are jeopardized be provided with subsidies and allowances covering emergency relief, living costs, health care, children’s education, legal expenses and interest payments on start-up loans.
Subsidies for tuition and childcare services are provided to middle- and low-income single parents (with dependents under 18 years of age) to help them advance their studies and enhance employment skills. Single parents who wish to study at a university can apply for tuition subsidies of up to NT$10,000 (US$320) each semester for a maximum of two years, and for childcare subsidies during the period of study. Since 2006, a tuition subsidy of up to NT$8,000 (US$254) per semester for a maximum of two years has been provided to single parents attending senior high school.
A housing subsidy program effective since February 2009 targets young newlywed couples desiring to rent or buy a property. The program provides up to 20,000 applicants a year with a rental subsidy of NT$3,600 (US$114) a month for two years; and up to 10,000 households a year with NT$2 million (US$63,500) interest-free loans for the first two years. Eligible applicants must be middle-and low-income earners aged 20 to 40 who were married within two years of the date of application. Married couples aged 20 to 45 in the middle- and low-income brackets with children under 20 years of age are also eligible for the interest-free home loans.