From this year, there are to be more women in Taiwan than men. The ratio of men to women is 99.99-100, the first time this has happened in 100 years.
As with many other stable, advanced societies, social trends are gradually seeing changes in gender ratios. For example, in 2001, the ratio in Italy was 0.937 males for every female, 0.939 in France, 0.948 in Japan and 0.951 in Austria.
The crucial factor behind the higher proportion of men in Taiwan in the past was the several million military personnel the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) brought to Taiwan when it fled China after losing the Civil War in 1949. Very few people are still alive from that era.
In addition, there have been proportionately more men among the wave of people studying overseas or emigrating and of those leaving Taiwan as part of the relocation of industry. Meanwhile, spouses from China or other countries coming to live in Taiwan have predominantly been female.
It is predicted that in less than half a century, the gender ratio in Taiwan will fall to 0.93, levels on a par with the current ratios in Italy and France. The ratio in Taipei is already 0.924. Women tend to gravitate to the capital, as they do in economically advanced countries, because of the developed infrastructure and the better job opportunities, mainly in the service sector.
By comparison, China has 1.052 males to each female.
The phenomenon of a higher proportion of females to males is a demographic trend that has repercussions for medical treatment, healthcare, society and politics.
How are people in the modern world adapting to this on an individual and a collective level? What does it mean for policy formation? How is it changing the way circumstances and happiness are defined? What does it mean for how people live and how they look at the world?
The modern woman no longer spends as much time being pregnant. The current health insurance only covers delivery of the baby and does not cover the various contraceptive measures, which does not make sense.
Even when a woman is pregnant, she may want to go through a whole raft of tests and checks, such as a level two ultrasound scan, a Down syndrome check and amniotic fluid tests, for which she must pay out of her own pocket.
The way national health insurance works at the moment, more funds are directed toward targeted cancer therapies for terminal patients than they are towards the creation of new lives.
A second phenomenon is the gradual annual increase in domestic violence. In 2012, there were more than 110,000 reported cases of domestic violence, an increase of more than 10,000 cases compared with the previous year, representing a growth rate of 10.4 percent. Of this increase, the majority — more than 5,000 cases — involved children, followed by more than 4,000 cases involving violence against spouses, former spouses or cohabiting partners.
Seventy-one percent of the people abused in reports of domestic abuse were female, and men — who were the ones meting out the abuse in 77 percent of the cases — were 4.3 times as likely to be the offenders as women were.
However, it is worth noting that the gender role in domestic violence cases is gradually closing. Ten years ago, females were 4.7 times more likely to be victims of domestic abuse, but this figure fell to 2.5 for 2012.
Perhaps one simplistic way of visualizing this is with a scenario in which there are problems within the family or between a couple: Although men are generally 15 percent stronger than women, women tend to live longer. When the man reaches old age and becomes physically weaker, very possibly looked after by a hired caregiver, it is time for his other half, harboring a grudge accumulated over the years, to get recompense.
Leo Tolstoy opened his novel Anna Karenina with “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
If the man in the partnership is short-sighted, he had better make sure he stays in shape or there is no telling what strife awaits him in his dotage.
Economic independence for women is a welcome phenomenon in the post-World War II world.
In Taiwan, as in the West, women now make up more than half of the workforce. They are making inroads into the financial and service sectors, and there are increasingly many female doctors, a field in which men have traditionally been dominant. In Taiwan, 15 percent of registered doctors are women, compared with 30 percent in the US and soon-to-be more than 50 percent in the UK. The numbers for the proportion of women currently in medical training are more promising, being more than 30 percent, 50 percent and 65 percent respectively for those same countries.
In the future, women will be dominant in the medical profession. However, due to biological and cultural factors, women doctors are in practice 20 percent less than their male counterparts and there are proportionately fewer female doctors in remote areas.
This, in a country such as Taiwan where there is a shortage of doctors, does not bode well for the future.
Chiang Sheng is an attending physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mackay Memorial Hospital.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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