Tue, Jan 01, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Preparing Taiwan to cash in on LGBT group

By Chang Sheng-en 張聖恩

On Tuesday last week, city mayors and county commissioners were sworn in to office. They pledged to “boost the economy” during their campaigns, but were hesitant about supporting equal rights for LGBT people. They clearly lack an understanding of the effects and business opportunities that the “pink economy” could bring as it grows worldwide.

The pink economy — also called the “rainbow economy” (彩虹經濟) in Chinese — refers to the economic power driven by demand from the LGBT community. A Gallup poll in 2017 showed that 4.5 percent of Americans identified as LGBT. While opinions differ on the extent of the LGBT market, applying this figure to a global population of 7.5 billion indicates that up to 330 million are LGBT.

According to the Open for Business coalition, a positive correlation exists between GDP and LGBT inclusion. Non-profit organization the LGBT Foundation said in a report that the LGBT community could account for as much as US$4.6 trillion of global GDP every year, while LGBT Capital estimated the spending power of LGBT consumers to be about US$3.6 trillion annually. That is a significant economic contribution.

According to a Nielsen analysis, homosexual households make 16 percent more shopping trips every year than heterosexual households, and their spending on consumer-packaged goods is 25 percent higher than the spending of average households. They like to purchase home appliances and they travel more, while spending more than the average consumer at specialty retailers, such as bookstores, restaurants and bars, convenience stores, pet shops, electronics stores and health food stores. This shows that they value quality of life and are willing to consume, thus creating tons of business opportunities.

In Taiwan, survey results on the size of the LGBT population vary widely, ranging from 0.2 to almost 10 percent of the overall population. Based on Gallup’s estimate of 4.5 percent, up to 1.06 million of the nation’s 23.5 million people are LGBT. Such a big market is not to be missed.

In the past few years, Taipei has already benefited from a growing pink economy. Among the 140,000 participants in the 16th Taiwan LGBT Pride parade, more than 10 percent were foreign tourists. Along with local visitors from other cities and counties, they boosted the hotel, restaurant and tourism industries, spending more than NT$250 million (US$8.13 million) in a week.

Legalization for same-sex marriage in May in accordance with Constitutional Interpretation No. 748 would certainly boost the wedding industry as well.

However, is Taiwan ready for the booming pink economy?

Hornet Networks general manager Jack Hsiao (蕭士傑), an LGBT business operator, has proposed four indicators to determine the nation’s preparation: decriminalization and legalization; equal rights and gender education; social and business attitudes; and LGBT-friendly economic policies and government actions.

Although Taiwan is more LGBT-friendly than other Asian nations, there is still room for improvement based on the indicators.

First, city mayors and county commissioners should try to understand LGBT people and protect their rights through legislation. Next, they should endorse adequate gender education without allowing it to be hijacked by religious forces. Also, they should eliminate discrimination and misinformation, while encouraging enterprises to collaborate with LGBT groups. Finally, they should create an equal and fair business environment, and promptly propose pink economic policies.

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