Fri, Sep 02, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Official says increase in poverty a statistical fallacy

Staff Writer, with CNA

A senior government statistician said on Wednesday that the increase in the official number of low-income households is a result of government efforts to expand welfare coverage to more people. According to the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), the number of low-income households increased from 105,265 in 2009 to 112,200 last year — a 6.58 percent increase during a time when Taiwan recorded 10.8 percent GDP growth. Deputy DGBAS minister Lu Du-chin (鹿篤瑾) attributed the hike to a change in the definition of the term “low-income household” since last year, when the poverty line was raised to cover more disadvantaged families, Lu said.

He cited Taipei as an example, where those who own less than NT$5 million (US$172,000) in property were listed as poor in 2009. However, that level has since been revised upward to NT$5.5 million.

As for other cities and counties, the poverty line was raised from NT$2.6 million to NT$3 million, Lu said. “Raising the poverty line enables us to better take care of more disadvantaged families,” he said.

People should not distort the government’s efforts to help the disadvantaged by saying more people are poor now, he said.

DGBAS statistics also show that the wealth gap between the richest 20 percent of households and poorest 20 percent of households shrank from 6.34 times in 2009 to 6.19 times last year. Despite the decline, last year’s household income gap was still the third highest on record, with the highest recorded in 2001 at 6.39 times.

Those figures triggered considerable public debate, with the Democratic Progressive Party criticizing the government for failing to stop the wealth gap from growing. National Youth Commission Minister Lee Yun-jie (李允傑) defended the administration, saying that “no government in the past 50 years of the Republic of China has done as much as President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration” to narrow the wealth gap.

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