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Economic Depression
2009/07/18 15:46
Economic Depression

Did you know that Taiwan consistently has over 4,000 suicides per year? There is approximately one suicide every two hours in this country. The main reason is officially “unemployment.”

Taiwan’s economy has been comparatively slow over the past few years, and people have been losing their jobs to cheaper labour in China. In 2001, the unemployment rate broke five percent, and over 3,000 factories closed down. Although there are manufacturing jobs to be had, my coworkers inform me that once you are over 35, many employers will not want to hire you. Age discrimination is not legal, but it’s ok as long as it’s not the official reason.

People are desperate for an economic upgrade, which is why Taiwanese people vote for the KMT. My coworker Shauna said she is voting for the KMT after voting for the DPP in the last two elections. She says people want more economic ties with China, but without losing freedom. She thinks the DPP claim that the KMT will turn Taiwan into Tibet is ridiculous. The leader of the KMT also says that Taiwan can not be compared to Tibet, but that a likening to Hong Kong is closer to the truth.

Shauna is voting for the KMT because of the economy. She thought the DPP could bolster it, and even voted for them again so they could have four more years to get their policies working. But the news of suicides is really bringing her down. She said some people will even kill their children when they kill themselves.

Morbid Details
The two most common methods of suicide in Taiwan are hanging/suffocation, and poisonous gas. Jumping from heights is not a common way to go, but it is on an upward trend. In 1991, 41 people killed themselves by jumping from heights, but in 2005, 502 people did.

But some people never make it off the building. In June 2005, a woman was found dead on top of Taipei City Hall. She was in an “advanced state of decomposition,” meaning that she had been up there for about six months. It turns out that she was a vocal critic of President Chen Shui-bian, and a loyal KMT supporter. After the president was shot in 2004, she opposed him even more emphatically (many KMT supporters felt the shooting was a hoax to get sympathy votes). Apparently KMT-leaning news media reported the story as though she were a martyr. Her death protested the ruling party’s corruption, and the opposing party’s weakness, or so it was said. As far as I can tell, she didn’t leave a note indicating such. To see photos of her (alive), and where her body was found, check this out It becomes a little clearer as to how she could be unseen for six months.

I’m not sure how the status quo will be affected tomorrow. Both parties want more economic ties with China, but I’m not sure what kinds of strings China would attach to any new business negotiations. I am certain that China will have an effect on Taiwan soon. I don’t know if the KMT will make China welcome, or if the DPP will take a provocative stance and boycott the Olympics. Let’s just hope that the Taiwanese can live with what they choose.