Immigration & Multiculturalism; the Key to Taiwan’s Long-Term Growth
Taiwan is starting to see the real issues associated with declining birth rates and an aging population. It is forecasted that Taiwan will have a zero population growth by 2024, schools and universities are facing declining enrolments with an estimated 30% of universities to close over the next 5 years, the national health insurance system is facing increasing costs that are associated with increased quality of life and life expectancy and there is an increasing shortage for skilled workers even though there is still unemployment, due to the current Education system and its lack of skills-based learning and English language development.
These problems will not be solved by internal policies focused on the current citizens of Taiwan. The time has come for Taiwan to recognize the contributions and benefits of evolving into a multicultural society with an aggressive policy of attracting skilled and semi-skilled immigrants who wish to make Taiwan their place of residence.
Traditionally Taiwan has placed foreigners into three categories: A) Foreign Labour for Factories and Domestic Service, B) Foreign Language Teachers, and C) Professionals providing skills that are not available from local Taiwanese.
Due to the nature of employment, A and B are treated as second rate citizens of Taiwan, when the reality is that these people are making real contributions to the success of Taiwan and its global competitiveness and after a certain period need to be recognized as Permanent Residents of Taiwan.
I personally do not like the word “foreigner”, I prefer to call myself a non-Taiwanese resident. If Taiwanese continue to call non-Taiwanese permanent residents “foreigners”, then there always will be a cultural divide and a lack of recognition of the valuable contributions that non-Taiwanese residents make to Taiwan’s current and future success. Immigrants are a highly motivated workforce as their desire to succeed and provide a secure lifestyle is very high. They pay taxes, take on jobs that need to be filled and provide diversity. A country with diversity is much more likely to grow and prosper, as ultimately the strength of any country is its people.
Taiwan has many strengths, in areas such as electronics, healthcare, agriculture, post secondary education and has the unique position of being the only Mandarin speaking country outside of China. But without policies actively dealing with the issues facing Taiwan, these strengths will become idle and gradually diminish to nothing.
In closing, change is inevitable. The best way to deal with change, is to embrace diversity and to do this, a country the size of Taiwan, with its current demographics and trends, needs to implement policies that encourage permanent immigrants to settle in Taiwan and make it their home.