Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mixin' it up in Taiwan

I have been thinking about something very interesting to me lately, namely, social integration in Taiwan. Take a look at this article : currently, 1/5, 20%, of Taiwanese marriages are to a foreigner, apparently because of the disparity between what Taiwanese men and Taiwanese women want. Men want someone to carry on male-based traditional society; modern women want a more exciting life or a more respectful marriage than they think "traditional" Taiwanese men can deliver. Many of my Taiwanese female friends have confirmed these same thoughts from the article, although they probably represent a skewed population. But regardless, Taiwanese men are increasingly marrying women from overseas, especially in SouthEast Asia.

Also now, Taiwan is promoting a influx of high-knowledge employees, indicating it needs to import about 100,000 high-tech foreign workers between now and 2009. That doesn't include the number of migrant laborers or other forms of residents, including students and other laborers. According to Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior statistics, currently only ~424,333 foreigners reside in Taiwan. Adding 100,000 high tech workers increases the number of foreigners greatly, but the percentage in the population is still only about 2.2% Still, that increases the number of foreigners available for dating/marriage to "modern" women, and those who are married and bring their families add to the foreigner population significantly. If they stay in Taiwan, that would lead to much more foreigner growth in future generations.

All this points to a significant change in Taiwan's population base: a large influx of hi-tech foreign, typically male workers and their families, combined with HUGE amounts of Taiwanese male marriages to SE Asian women, leads me to believe the current demographics here will soon shift significantly. I just wonder how the Han population will react.

What do you think? Will all this immigration result in massive Nationalism/foreigner-phobia/fear of lost jobs to "wai guo ren"? Religious problems like Thailand's Muslim insurgency? Or will it be nothing special? Love to hear the opinions of others, and I hope I haven't speculated too much.


Michael Turton said...

Well, something like 1 in 6 kids born here in'05 had foreign mothers. Taiwan's always been a multicultural society, but the assimilationist ethic of the Han is very powerful; travel around and you'll bump into people who self-identify as Taiwanese (Han) but they are actually aborigines -- that is also true of many Hakkas. In many small towns you'll find traces of aborigine practices -- in Daya there are families that bury their dead in the backyard, echoing the aborigine practice of burying the dead under the house -- and earth god shrines worshipped aborigine style.

Taiwan's always been multicultural, so I think it will surprise everyone....


huang_wei_xiang said...

Hi Michael!
I myself think it won't be too big of a deal; that it will just happen, slowly and quietly, until naturalized foreigners want to take political office or other spotlight roles. Then I think there will be considerable drama about what Taiwanese identity is.
Thanks for reading!