President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday ordered government agencies to strengthen investment in education and improve employment mechanisms to narrow the income gap and help the disadvantaged move up the social ladder.
He was talking after meeting with his economic advisory panel, which made suggestions on how to achieve better income distribution and reduce the jobless rate.
In a five-level income spectrum, the highest-paid families (with 2.32 people working in each family) in 2003 earned an average of NT$1.8 million (US$56,250) a year, six times the level of the lowest-paid group, which earned NT$300,000 (with only 0.7 people employed in one family), the panel said.
The ratio, or the "Gini coefficient," used to measure the income gap between the richest and poorest, reached 6.39 in 2001.
But compared with Singapore's 20.9 in 2000, Hong Kong's 17.7 recorded in 2001 and the US' 10.2 times in 2002, Taiwan's situation is relatively balanced, Chen said.
"However, the government should implement effective reforms and strategies to slow the widening of the gap," he said.
"What we should care about is whether an annual income of NT$300,000 can support their basic needs and how to help more people in poor families secure jobs to improve their lives." Lin Hsin-yi (林信義), convener of the advisory panel, said at a press conference.