Hualien County is facing depopulation and rapidly aging demographics, according to the latest data released by the government.
Demographic information compiled at the end of December last year showed that Hualien had a total population of 335,190, which is 26,359 fewer than its peak figure of 361,549 in 1986.
An official at the Civil Affairs Department of Hualien County Government said that people still think the county has a population of about 361,000, but that was 26 years ago.
Since then, the population has gradually declined each year.
“Each year we lose about 1,013 individuals on average. This is about equal to one borough in Hualien City. It is an alarming rate of decrease,” the official said.
He said the total decline of 26,359 people since 1986 is equivalent to losing the entire population of Yuli Town (玉里), which is the second-largest urban center in the county after Hualien City.
The census compilation by the Civil Affairs Department indicated most of the county’s residents are concentrated in the three northern administrative areas — Hualien City, Jian Township (吉安) and Sincheng Township (新城), which together account for 62.51 percent of the county’s population, or 209,533 people.
The official said this was due to Hualien’s economic development and employment opportunities, which also manifest a “strong north, weak south” pattern.
The county has a total of 46,389 children aged 14 and under, or 13.84 percent of the population, below the national average of 14.86 percent.
Government officials said the county government must find ways to deal with these demographic issues, because the situation is even more serious for the county’s central and southern regions, as well as the remote mountainous areas.