Fri, Aug 19, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Wealth gap remained high last year at 6.19 times

By Amy Su  /  Staff Reporter

The average annual disposable income of the richest families in Taiwan reached 6.19 times that of the poorest last year, the third-highest level on record, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday, implying that the nation’s wealth gap remained wide.

The nation’s income gap widened to the second-highest level in 2009, when those in the top group earned 6.34 times more than those in the bottom group.

The ratio was 6.05 in 2008. It reached its highest at 6.39 in 2001, DGBAS data showed.

“Compared with the data in 2009, the household income gap narrowed last year,” DGBAS Minister Shih Su-mei (石素梅) told a news conference.

However, if social welfare subsidies and tax benefits were excluded, the ratio between the highest-income group and the lowest-income group would have hit 7.72 times last year, indicating a wider gap, according to DGBAS data.

The DGBAS has conducted an annual survey of family incomes and expenditures since 1964 to keep tabs on wealth distribution.

The survey divides families into five brackets in terms of annual disposable income, with the top 20 percent defined as the richest and the bottom 20 percent as the poorest.

The latest survey found that the average annual disposable income of the richest families reached NT$1.79 million (US$61,700) last year, compared with NT$289,000 for those in the poorest bracket.

Excluding government welfare subsidies and tax breaks, the annual disposable family income of the richest group amounted to NT$1.82 million, compared with the poorest group’s NT$237,000.

Chen Hsin-hsing (陳信行), an associate professor at Shih Hsin University’s Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies, attributed the wealth gap to an expanding class of working poor in the face of low or stagnant salaries.

“If the government does not ask companies to increase workers’ wages, the increasing number of working poor would deepen the gap,” Chen said by telephone.

Chen added that the Council of Labor Affairs’ plan to increase the minimum wage by 5.03 percent was not high enough.

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