Government and Aboriginal efforts to improve the lives of the nation’s indigenous people have failed because they are off target, a researcher said yesterday.
“[Government policies] have forced Aborigines into mainstream society, where they are forced to live the Han Chinese way of life,” Liu Chien-chia (劉千嘉), a doctoral candidate in sociology at National Chengchi University, told a conference on changes in the Aboriginal population.
“But different ethnic groups have different lifestyles and different ways of thinking,” she said.
Starting in the 1970s, the pursuit of better living standards drove a large migration from rural, Aboriginal towns and villages into major cities such as Taipei and Kaohsiung, as well as into Taoyuan County, where a large number of factories are located, Liu said.
Now Aborigines that have made the migration “have no way back,” she said.
“By 2007, 40 percent of Aborigines lived outside of their traditional areas and at the end of last year the Aboriginal population in Taipei and Taoyuan counties combined surpassed that of Hualien and Taitung counties combined for the first time,” Liu said.
But migration doesn’t necessarily mean more opportunities and prosperity, she said.
Many people who move from rural areas into cities find jobs, make new friends, build a network of contacts and improve their life through those connections, Liu said, “but Aborigines have to first face the challenge of the cultural and language barriers.”
In addition, as most Aboriginal workers live on the outskirts of cities, they may be isolated from non-Aborigines even after moving to cities.
“The government tries to help them through employment and education, but constant job changes remains a key character of Aboriginal life in cities,” Liu said, urging the government to view the problem from an Aboriginal perspective.
Meanwhile, Tzu Chi University human development professor Hsieh Ying-hui (謝穎慧) said that, while statistics show a higher incidence of physical disabilities at an earlier age among Aborigines, a planned long-term home care program for the elderly and handicapped should be more flexible.
Under a government plan that will soon be implemented, people over the age of 50 with mental or physical disabilities will qualify for the program.
But Hsieh said many Aborigines with physical handicaps become disabled between the ages of 40 and 50.
Hsieh said the higher rate of disability at an earlier age was in part due to the large percentage of Aborigines working in high-risk jobs such as construction.
A Bureau of Health Promotion official who attended the conference, Hsiao Feng-chi (蕭峰吉), responded positively to Hsieh’s point.
“Lowering the beneficiary age for Aborigines is certainly a direction that we can consider,” Hsiao said.