While it continues to experience a net loss of residents, Hualien County’s population of Aborigines has risen, the latest information from the Ministry of the Interior shows.
As a result, Aboriginal Hualien County councilors are demanding that the county government increase its budget and programs for Aboriginal welfare and social services.
Hualien County Civil Affairs Department Deputy Director Hsiao Ming-chia (蕭明甲) said ministry statistics show the county’s population of 323,897 as of December last year had declined from a high of of 358,981 in 1995. Due to emigration and other factors, the county’s population has decreased by 25,084 over the past 18 years, an average reduction of 1,393 people per year, he said.
The county has seen its population of Aborigines rising to 91,143, the highest ever for the county, the statistics show.
The latest data from the ministry indicated that of the 91,143 Aborigines, 35,172 are residents of mountain townships, while 55,971 are residents of lowland townships.
Aborigines now make up more than one-quarter, or 28.13 percent, of the county’s population.
“Our overall population decline is due to many reasons. These include people migrating to other cities and regions of Taiwan to seek better job opportunities and the low birth rate of our young married couples,” Hsiao said.
“The Hualien County Government is taking action to mitigate the population decline by introducing several incentive programs,” he added.
Among the programs are two mass weddings each year are sponsored by the county government, a NT$10,000 subsidy for each newborn child, free tuition for children aged four and over at public kindergartens, tuition vouchers for children attending private kindergartens, free tuition for elementary school and junior-high school and subsidies for students’ school lunches, Hsiao said.
“We hope these programs can boost the birth rate of Hualien County residents and halt the negative population growth trend,” he said.
Hualien County Councilor Tibus Yilay, an Amis Aborigine, said the increase in the Aborigine population was welcome.
“It enhances the proportion and total number of Aborigine residents in our county. However, the current government policies for Aborigines’ welfare and social services remain insufficient,” she said.
“Many Aborigines cannot find jobs, or have low incomes. They are an underprivileged group in society that needs support,” she said, adding that she will cooperate with other Hualien County councilors to improve rights protection and social welfare services for Aboriginal residents of the county to improve their living conditions in accordance with the rise in population.