Taiwan's population surpassed
22.56 million in August 2003. Kaohsiung City in the south is the most
densely populated place, followed by Taipei in the north and Taichung in central
Taiwan. Almost 70 percent of Taiwan's population is concentrated in
metropolitan areas. As of December 2002, the Taipei-Keeling Greater
Metropolitan Area remained the most populated area with 6.58 million residents
or 42.42 percent of Taiwan's total urban population.
Over the past few decades, the
average age of Taiwan's population has increased by 1.8 percent. By the
end of 2002, the number of people over the age of 65 exceeded 9 percent of the
total population, and this rise is expected to continue.
With the exception of over
433,524 indigenous peoples in 2002, Taiwan's population is composed almost
entirely of Han Chinese. Early Han Chinese immigrants are of two groups:
the Hakka, mostly from Guangdong Province, and the Fujianese, from China's
southeastern coastal province of Fujian. These two groups comprise about
85 percent of the Han population, with the Fujianese outnumbering the Hakka by
about three to one. The last group of immigrants came to Taiwan from
various parts of China with ROC government in 1949. This group is
generally referred to as "mainlanders," and accounts for less than 15
percent of the Han population. Intermarriage between all four groups -
indigenous peoples, Hakkas, Fujianese, and mainlanders - is quite common, so the
distinguishing characteristics of these groups have become fainter over time.
Human habitation in Taiwan dates
back 12,000 to 15,000 years, and evidence suggests that the ancestors of today's
indigenous peoples came from southern China and Austronesia. There are
currently 11 major indigenous groups in Taiwan: the Ayatal, Saisiyat, Bunun,
Tsou, Thao, Paiwan, Rukai, Puyuma, Amis, Yami, and Kavalan. Collectively,
they comprise less than 2 percent of Taiwan's total population.
Both the culture and lifestyles
of Taiwan's indigenous peoples have continued to change as the descendants of
Taiwan's earliest inhabitants adjust to rapid modernization. Young people
are leaving traditional occupations, such as farming, hunting, and fishing for
jobs in the cities. Indigenous languages are still spoken in Taiwan, but
the number of native speakers is dwindling rapidly, with younger generations
usually not as fluent in their own ancestral tongue as they are in Mandarin or
To address these problems and
better preserve the cultural hertiage of Taiwan's indigenous peoples, the
Council of Indigenous Peoples under the Executive Yuan was established on
December 10, 1996. In coordination with other government agencies, the
council supervises social welfare programs - including medical care, vocational
training, legal services, and community development - for Taiwan's indigenous
peoples and works on the comprehensive economic development of aboriginal
communities to improve their lives.
Taiwan's population density is 603 persons per sq km (1561 per sq mi) with a
total population of about 22 million (1997). The majority of the
population lives on the western side of the Chungyang Range in it's fertile
plains and basins and is comprised of mostly ethnic Han Chinese. These
ethnic Han Chinese were either born on the mainland or had relatives who were
and are subdivided into 3 categories based on their dialects: Taiwanese (speak
Min aka Taiwanese), Hakka (speak Kejia aka Hakka), and Mandarin. All
of these languages are part of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
Also found in Taiwan are aboriginal groups, with nine tribes speaking
different versions of Formosan, which is a member of the Austronesian language
family. Even with all the different languages, Mandarin Chinese is the
official language of Taiwan.