This means that a physically disabled person, whom the authorities decide is capable of working, but actually cannot find a job, will still be assumed to have a salary equivalent to 55 percent of the basic wage, and the calculation of this virtual income is subject to changes in the basic wage.
Last year, the basic wage was adjusted to NT$18,780 per month, so the virtual income assigned to physically and mentally disabled people this year is 55 percent of that figure, which is NT$10,329. That figure is higher than the officially announced basic monthly cost of living of NT$10,244 for Taiwan Province [as opposed to the administrative Fujian Province] and Greater Tainan and NT$10,303 for Greater Taichung. Low income households are defined as those in which the total household income divided by the number of household members comes to less than the officially announced basic cost of living for the area in which they live. This means that disabled people living alone in Taiwan Province, Greater Tainan and Greater Taichung will lose their status as low-income households on account of the surplus of NT$26 or NT$85 in their supposed virtual incomes relative to the official basic cost of living.
New Year’s Eve was celebrated with spectacular fireworks displays, but no sooner were the parties over that many disabled people found themselves stripped of their low-income status and facing hardship with nothing and nobody to depend on. This is the kind of unfortunate outcome you get from a system that does not provide for human rights assessments.
A formalistic, leveling approach to equality is not a truly fair one. In formulating laws and policies, the government needs to effectively assess their impact on disadvantaged groups. Only if it can provide disadvantaged people with a fair chance of subsistence can the government claim to be living up to human rights standards.
Wang Yu-ling is a member of the Presidential Office Human Rights Consultative Committee.
Translated by Julian Clegg