Wed, Nov 05, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Survey points to general ignorance and suspicion toward Asian female spouses

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Over half of the population are not aware of the number of foreign spouses entering Taiwan, and about one-fifth are hostile toward them, a survey revealed yesterday.

Shih Hsin University (世新大學) yesterday released a survey on attitudes toward female foreign spouses from Southeast Asia and China.

The survey showed that 52.1 percent of the public had no knowledge of the number of foreign spouses and children in Taiwan.

Figures show that there are 27,000 female foreign spouses in Taiwan, while one in eight children was born to a foreign mother last year.

Results showed 51.1 percent of respondents were concerned about Southeast Asian female emigration to Taiwan while 55.9 percent were specifically concerned about Chinese female nationals. 59.3 percent thought that the government should limit the numbers of foreign spouses entering Taiwan.

In addition, 18.5 percent thought that society should treat Southeast Asian spouses differently, while 22 percent thought the same for Chinese spouses.

The interviewees were most concerned about educational problems facing the children of Southeast Asian spouses, while Chinese spouses attracted most concern in relation to the quality of a marriage.

But 31.6 percent said they would suggest their friends marry a foreign spouse if their friends were looking for partners, while only 19.7 percent would consider the possibility of marrying a foreigner themselves.

The university also pointed out that in 10 years time, children born of foreign spouses might number as high as one million, making them the fourth-largest ethnic group in the country, larger in number than the population of Taiwan's indigenous peoples.

Hsia Hsiao-chuan (夏曉鵑), a sociologist at the university, was critical of people's treatment of foreign spouses.

"For Taiwanese to consider foreign spouses to be "of inferior quality" is discriminatory. It also reflects domestic anxiety about the economic downturn and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, as well as the need to find a scapegoat," Hsiao said.

"However, pointing fingers at foreign spouses only shows Taiwanese have completely forgotten their own roots. Apart from Aboriginal people, all Taiwanese were descendents of impoverished Chinese who came to Taiwan to look for a better life," Hsiao said.

Hsiao also defended the need to educate children of foreign spouses. She said it was not necessarily the case that children of foreign spouses would suffer from slow educational development. She said that sometimes they encountered problems in language ability because their mothers dared not talk to them in their own languages in the face of opposition from the family of the father.

"Taiwanese look down upon Southeast Asian spouses and treat Chinese spouses as enemies," Hsiao said.

James Hsueh (薛承泰), a professor of sociology at National Taiwan University, also pointed to a reason for the climbing number of foreign spouses in recent years: an imbalance between the numbers of men and women.

"There are 15 percent more men than women in Taiwan, so if everyone wanted to get married, out of 100 men there would be 15 who wouldn't be able to find a wife," Hsueh said.

"In the past, there were disabled men who weren't able to marry local women, but with access to foreign spouses, they can marry now," he said.

The survey interviewed 1,068 people over 20 years of age via telephone.

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