Hsinchu City has edged out Taipei to become the nation’s happiest places as the capital is plagued by soaring house prices, according to the national happiness index published by Kainan University on Friday.
Hsinchu City was followed by Hsinchu County and Yilan County, with the three least-happy places being Pingtung County, Keelung and Yunlin County.
Only two of the five special municipalities were in the top 10: Taipei, which dropped four notches from last year; and Greater Taichung, which came in seventh spot.
Greater Tainan was ranked 12th, followed by Greater Kaohsiung in 13th place and New Taipei City in (新北市) 16th spot.
New Taipei City’s ranking dropped 11 notches from last year’s fifth spot, posting the biggest decline in happiness levels.
Despite having the highest income level among the 20 administrative regions, Taipei was placed at the bottom in terms of housing conditions.
Kainan University Principal Lin Chi-huang (林基煌) attributed the growing unhappiness among residents in the Greater Taipei area to the rocketing property prices in recent years.
“Home prices per ping in Taipei account for as much as 149 percent of residents’ average per capita disposable income, which means the majority do not have enough money to buy even one ping,” Lin said.
Moreover, Taipei is one of the cities with the highest youth unemployment rates, Lin said, adding that it was rated 13th for residents’ subjective well-being and 18th for balance between work and life.
While New Taipei City scored well in public health, education and skill levels and environmental quality — ranking third, fourth and fifth respectively — it lagged behind in almost all other areas, Lin said.
Regarding the three least-happy cities, Lin said Yunlin ranked bottom three in four aspects: income level, subjective well-being, education and skill levels, as well as local government performance and citizen participation in politics.
“Keelung performed well only in terms of education and skill levels, where it was rated seventh, while it fared poorly in subjective well-being and in local government performance and citizen participation in politics,” Lin said.
Lin added that the main reason Pingtung ranked among the bottom three was its inferior environmental quality.
The happiness poll, conducted between December last year and September, was compiled from a total of 70 indicators in 11 categories.
It was based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index and Taiwan’s Gross National Happiness index released by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics.
In response, Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) said that house prices were determined by various supply and demand factors and that concerted efforts by the central and local governments to seek ways are required to achieve housing justice.
New Taipei City Government spokesman Lin Chieh-yu (林芥佑) said the city government would put more effort into reinforcing policies.
Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) accused the central government of neglecting the well-being of Yunlin residents, while Keelung Mayor Chang Tong-rong (張通榮) and Pingtung County Government spokesperson Yin Feng-lan (鄞鳳蘭) said they would look into the matter.
Additional Reporting by Cheng Hsu-kai and Yu Chao-fu