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The People  of Taiwan

 


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 Minnanese.

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.


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