The IMF estimates that Taiwan’s GDP per capita would be about US$35,510 this year, potentially surpassing Japan and South Korea to become the highest in East Asia.
Of course, Taiwanese are entitled to be proud of themselves, but they cannot afford to be complacent, and academics and other experts have pointed out some problems in Taiwan’s seemingly affluent society.
These are the golden days for Taiwan’s technology industry, but the nation might be at risk of relying too excessively and exclusively on it. As a result, Taiwan might face deindustrialization in other sectors.
Take, for example, the average annual pay in Taiwan: For employees at the nation’s “silicon shield,” Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the median annual salary has reached NT$1.81 million (US$56,264), and this is not even the highest figure in the semiconductor industry.
Last year, the annual salary at a top IC design company averaged NT$6,119,000, up 153 percent from a year earlier and ranking the highest in Taiwan.
However, the situation is different in sectors that focus more on the domestic market, such as wholesale, retail, beauty treatment and hairdressing, accommodation and food services, tourism, transportation, warehousing, education, art, entertainment and recreation. The median annual salary for workers in those sectors averaged less than a pitiful NT$400,000.
Taiwan’s income distribution has become increasingly M-shaped, and economic inequality is worsening.
The income ratio of the highest-earning 20 percent and the lowest-earning 20 percent has widened to 6.15 from 6.13 a year earlier, the largest gap in the past decade, Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics data showed.
The wealth gap is widening. Those working in the semiconductor industry have rapidly accumulated wealth over the past three years, whereas workers in other sectors need to toil to keep up with price increases and home loans.
Although GDP per capita is expected to grow, problems such as unequal distribution and inflation must be addressed. The government must invest in all kinds of industries, rather than concentrating on a single one.
Achieving a high GDP per capita should not be the main goal. Mitigating economic inequality should instead be prioritized.
Wei Si-yuan works in the information technology industry.
Translated by Liu Yi-hung
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