Bunun women celebrate their traditions at a festival in Taitung County. (Liang Han-yun, courtesy of the Tourism Bureau)
While Taiwan may be described as a predominantly (over 95 percent) Han Chinese society, its heritage is much more complex than such a generalization implies. The successive waves of Han immigrants that began arriving in the 17th century belonged to a variety of subgroups with mutually unintelligible languages and different customs. Today in Taiwan, however, distinctions between them have become blurred as a result of extensive intermarriage and universal use of the Mandarin Chinese language. Further, Taiwan proper has been a melting pot not only of diverse Han subgroups but also of its indigenous Austronesian peoples and people from all over the world. Recent years, for example, have seen an influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia.
There is a growing appreciation in Taiwan for the cultural legacies of the 14 distinguishable Austronesian subgroups, which constitute approximately 2 percent of the population. Both public and private organizations are making efforts to vitalize their languages and cultures, as illustrated by the launching of Taiwan Indigenous Television, and the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act in 2005.
Taiwanese teens pose for a cell phone snapshot. (Huang Chung-hsin)
This convergence and interplay of currents of humanity in Taiwan have helped transform it into an open-hearted, forward-looking society that has incorporated diverse elements of civilization from around the world in a distinctive and harmonious manner. The people of Taiwan cherish human rights, which comprise an integral part of everyday life from gender empowerment to equal access to comprehensive national health insurance. Legislation to enhance the people’s welfare, promote social equality and safeguard labor rights is a manifestation of the government’s staunch commitment to protect the rights and interests of the people. In 2009, the nation marked an important milestone in human rights development by ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Population Profile (2010)
Population: 23,188,078 (July 2011)
Crude birth rate: 0.72 percent
Crude death rate: 0.63 percent
Life expectancy: 79.24 years
Population structure (by age):
0-14 years: 15.64 percent
15-64 years: 73.62 percent
65 and above: 10.74 percent