The gap between the nation's rich and poor has continued to widen in recent years, reaching a high of 36 times last year, according to a report released by a government agency yesterday.
The richest 720,000 households in the country had an average annual income of NT$2.1 million (US$64,024) last year, while the poorest 720,000 households posted an average annual income of NT$58,000 (US$1,768) the same year, leaving a gap of 36-1 between the rich and poor, according to statistics compiled by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS).
The richest group's average income of NT$2.1 million last year represented a rise of NT$40,000 from that posted in 2004, while the poorest group's average of NT$58,000 represented a decline of NT$3,000 from the year-earlier level, DGBAS officials said.
While there are about 500,000 people in the country whose individual wealth totals more than NT$100 million, there are also numerous people who have committed suicide due to despair owing to poverty, the agency's officials said.
DGBAS officials attributed the widening gap to the "winners circle effect" caused by increasing globalization.
Chu Yun-peng (朱雲鵬), director of the National Central University's Center for Economic Development, attributed the alarming 36-1 gap to poorly designed government policies and inefficient implementation of useful policies.
For example, poorly designed tax policies have failed to tax the rich proportionally, while the poor have been heavily burdened with taxes, Chu said.
Rising unemployment due to changes in the industrial structure is another reason behind the widening gap, Chu said.
The nation's unemployment rate rose to 4.09 percent in August from 4.05 percent the previous month, the DGBAS reported on Sept. 22.
The jobless rate for the entire year will be less than 4 percent this year, compared with 4.13 percent last year, Huang Jiann-jong (
Chu also cited the result of a survey that his center conducted last month as indicating that the confidence index for the prospects for household economic situations for the next six months stood at 54.85 points, the lowest in five years.
The professor suggested that relevant government agencies craft new policies that are more helpful to the poor than the rich to prevent a further widening of the wealth gap.