At least two counties and cities have been affected by the “magnet effect” exerted by the five special municipalities, causing an outflow of people, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of the Interior.
Pingtung County and Keelung saw their populations shrink by 1.2 percent and 1.1 percent respectively, the ministry’s numbers showed, giving them the fastest falling populations nationwide.
The statistics suggest that Keelung’s population peaked at 392,337 in 2004 and has since been on a gradual decline, registering a fall of 0.36 percent by 2008.
At the end of last month, the population of Keelung was 382,551, according to the statistics.
The demographics for Pingtung County also showed steady population decline. At the end of 2001, Pingtung County had a recorded population of 990,364, but only 870,561 persons at the end of last month, a total fall of 38,000.
The birthrates in Pingtung County and Keelung also ranked among the lowest in the nation, the ministry’s tallies showed.
The birthrate in Keelung stood at 0.515 percent and in Pingtung County 0.588 percent, both lower than Hsinchu City’s 0.1146.
The numbers suggest that young married couples are less willing to live in Keelung or Pingtung County and are demonstrating a preference for other cities and counties.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), who represents a constituency in Keelung, said that although housing prices in Keelung are cheaper than in Taipei, the lower quality of life discourages people from wanting to live there, resulting in an outflow of people to Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市).
Hsieh said that measures must be taken to enhance the convenience and quality of everyday life in Keelung, as a way of persuading young people to remain.
A Ferris wheel and other entertainment facilities could be built on top of the Port Affairs Building to stimulate the city’s economy, Hsieh added.
Wang Hsing-chih (王醒之) of the Raging Citizens Act Now Alliance, said that Taipei Port has already all but replaced Keelung Port, drastically reducing the cargo and trucking jobs in the city. The opening of the Hsuehshan Tunnel compounded the problem and led to an even more serious economic decline in Keelung , he added.
Wang said that Keelung was in a far weaker position when it came to asking the central government for money than Taoyuan, New Taipei City or Yilan County, adding that the unequal distribution of resources was a key factor in the population decline.
Wang criticized the KMT’s call for a “greater metropolis” combining Taipei, New Taipei City and Keelung, saying that such a measure was little more than a selght if hand intended to trick Keelung residents.
Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) who represents a constituency in Pingtung County, said the county faces not only an aging population, but also a low birth rate, leading to a steadily declining population.
The main problem was the lack of jobs Pan said, adding that Pingtung needed to focus on developing service industries.
Pingtung should also take advantage of its natural landscape and do more to develop tourism, he said.
If there were more employment opportunities available, young people would be more willing to stay and it could even be possible to attract people from other parts of the nation, Pan said.