The nation’s Aboriginal population has increased by 90,000 in the past 10 years, from more than 420,000 in 2001 to the more than 510,000 last year, according to latest statistics released by the Ministry of the Interior.
Among the increases, 120,000 more children between the age of 15 and 19 registered their Aboriginal identity last year, compared with 10 years ago, which is a 33.66 percent increase, the data showed.
Commenting on the phenomenon, Association of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies member Pasang Hsiao (蕭世暉) said the increase in Aboriginal identity registration among adults shows that identifying oneself as Aborigine is rising, however, the increase among students could mean that those Aboriginal students want to take advantage of bonus points allocated for Aboriginal students in school entrance exams.
Mayaw Biho, a documentary director from the Amis tribe, agreed with Hsiao’s interpretation, saying that many students are changing their ethnic identity out of practical considerations, but added that many people are also doing so for “ethnic justice.”
Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川) said the increase in the Aboriginal population is related to welfare incentives, but he believes that increased harmony among ethnic groups and less ethnic discrimination have also continued to increase the self-identity of Aborigines.
Currently, Aborigines enjoy benefits such as bonus points on entrance exams, as well as subsidies for pre-school education, study abroad, tuition, better old-age pensions and the right to buy or sell Aboriginal reserve lands to make up for the disadvantages experienced by Aborigines in the economy, education and employment.
However, Sun said that, based on the concept of equality as stated in the Constitution and the improvements in education and gaps in resources as many Aborigines move into cities, he has asked officials to look into setting up a threshold to exclude wealthier Aborigines from enjoying the benefits and welfare reserved for Aborigines.
The minister said the new measure is to avoid making non--Aborigines feel that they are deprived of certain rights due to ethnicity and thus prevent ethnic conflicts that such feelings could trigger, and leave the limited resources of the state to those who are most in need.