The number of low-income households in Taiwan hit a record high of 102,759, or 249,834 individuals, in September, an increase of 13.5 percent and 14.9 percent respectively.
The Ministry of the Interior, which released the statistics, attributed the increases to the global financial crisis. It said the economic downturn has driven up unemployment, which prompted the government to lower Taiwan’s threshold for poverty.
By administrative districts, Taipei City was in the lead with 16,047 households and 39,501 people in the low-income category, followed by Taipei County with 12,758 households and 31,368 individuals, and Kaohsiung City with 9,219 households and 21,968 individuals.
The cities ranked in the same order for the same period last year, the ministry said.
In terms of percentage of people in the cities or counties considered to be in the low-income bracket, Taitung County topped the list at 4.48 percent, followed by Penghu County at 3.58 percent and Hualien County at 2.37 percent.
At the other end of the scale, Taichung County had the lowest percentage of low income individuals at 0.58 percent, followed by Tainan and Chiayi counties at 0.59 percent.
The Social Assistance Act (社會救助法) defines low-income households as those whose total income divided by the number of members in the household is lower than the minimum cost of living.
The minimum cost of living is defined in Taiwan by the central and municipal authorities as 60 percent of the most recent average monthly consumption expenditure per capita, calculated by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics.
By this criteria, Taipei had the highest minimum cost of living this year at NT$14,558 per month. That figure showed that the 35,501 individuals who are considered low income in Taipei live on about US$15 per day.
Other cities fared worse than Taipei. Kaohsiung City’s poor lived on NT$11,309 a month, those in Taipei County on NT$10,792 and other counties in Taiwan on NT$9,829.
Kinmen and Matsu counties had the lowest minimum cost of living at NT$7,400 a month.
Huang Pi-hsia, director-general of the ministry’s Department of Social Affairs, cited the relatively higher cost of living in Taipei City as the reason for the city having the largest population of low income people.
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