According to the most recent estimates, the Taiwanese GDP is estimated to have grown over 6 percent in 2021. That is nearly double the 3.11 percent growth from 2020. However, looking at recent polling data (and talking to Taiwanese people), you wouldn’t know it.
Formosa Newsletter (美麗島電子報) newest polling, shows that 56.3 percent of the Taiwanese public believes that the economic situation in the country is not good. While this is an improvement, it is only an improvement of 1.8 percent from the previous month’s polling (this is within the margin of error for the data). Only 40 percent view the situation as favorable, which is only an increase of 0.5 percent.
Of course the improvement, at least in terms of people’s opinions, is better when stretched out over a longer period of time. Even as recently as 2018 the number that believed the economy was doing poorly was over 80 percent. However, this percentage dropped even below the most recent numbers at the beginning of 2021, when people were still riding the wave of economic growth that was nearly identical to 2017.
This clearly shows us that average people are not concerned about economic numbers, or at least they are only worried about them insofar as they affect them directly, which is generally not very much. This seems especially true if the economy grows, of course if there is a depression or recession average people generally suffer. However, even with the highest GDP growth in over a decade, average people are still unsatisfied, because they aren’t the ones that benefit.
Regular Taiwanese people are still dealing with stagnant wages. Technically there have been minimum wage increases, unfortunately these are barely keeping up with inflation. This is compounded by a housing crisis that has priced the majority of young people completely out of the market. All the while, the government can’t figure out why people don’t want to have babies. There are certainly lots of possible fixes for this, including taxing additional homes, obviously raising the minimum wage, and increasing subsidies for child care and early education (because the current subsidies are a joke).
The difficult thing is getting the ruling party to actually implement such reforms. As rich elites, they will never deal with issues that we peasants have to struggle with. They’re also not incentivized to make these kind of changes, as their friends and donors are rich elites that generally want to keep profits high and wages low.
To truly combat these issues Taiwan needs to make some serious changes. One such change could be stronger, much more inclusive unions. This of course takes time, but would give workers much more bargaining power. Another route is through third parties. Taiwan thankfully has numerous third parties, unfortunately few of them currently garner enough support to bring the radical changes needed. This is why Taiwan should push for ranked-choice voting.
However, even if Taiwan doesn’t get ranked-choice voting in the near term, if a party made it one of their primary policies to increase the minimum wage significantly and to push regulations to ensure everyone has the ability to afford a home, it is possible that they could garner significant support.