The issue of growing income inequality has taken center stage at Academia Sinica’s biennial convocation, which opened on Tuesday in Taipei.
The income of the richest 5 percent in Taiwan has grown to nearly 100 times that of the poorest 5 percent, which academic Lin Ming-chang (林明璋) said indicates a serious gap.
The emeritus professor of chemistry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, attributed the income gap to an unfair tax system, which he says lays the heaviest tax burden on the salaried class, while reducing the tax burden on the wealthy, who have many tools at their disposal to avoid taxes.
The nation’s development will be hampered unless the government promotes tax reform to improve income distribution, he said.
Nobel laureate and former Academia Sinica head Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) said that while many think technological development helps reduce poverty and famine, it only creates a larger number of billionaires without fixing poverty.
Academia Sinica Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said that health inequality is one of the most important factors in the widening income gap, and new policies for healthcare and long-term care are what Taiwan needs the most.
Poorer people tend to face more difficulty getting access to healthcare, creating a vicious cycle in which the poor get poorer because of health problems, he said.
Wang Ping (王萍), the Siegle Family Professor of economics at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, said the most obvious trend in Taiwan in recent years has been the rapid accumulation of wealth by people who own property.
Business magnates and capitalists are becoming increasingly wealthy, but are not giving back to the salaried class, he said.
The four-day convocation, which elects academicians and sets research policies, has brought together 206 of the institution’s 258 members.