Trump’s victory in the US presidential election was watched by millions of people. Not only did the result surprise people all over the world, but it also caused a commotion in the US, with Muslims, Latinos and Asians in particular feeling most afraid that when Trump really put his political ideas into practice, he would create a society from which non-white people were once again excluded.
The term “social exclusion” was first proposed in 1974 in France by René Lenoir, but was not widely used until the 1990s, when the EU included it in an official document and the concept began to gradually spread around the world.
In the beginning, social exclusion referred to poverty caused by loopholes in social insurance. However, later, the EU found that some people are not only excluded in economic terms, but experience social isolation even in terms of health, housing, education and social contact. For example, there are ethnic minorities in Europe that are treated unfairly, and New York has been called a “dual city”, implying that the rich and the poor, and the black and the white know entirely different versions.
Poverty is the result of social exclusion. Compared with the rest of the world, Taiwan’s poverty problem is not significant. In 2012, Taiwan had a relative poverty rate of 7.72%, which would make it the sixth lowest among OECD countries. The Czech Republic has the lowest rate of 5.2%, and is followed by Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and France.
However, this does not mean that there is no social exclusion in Taiwan. On the contrary, the following phenomena of exclusion are particularly common in Taiwan.
Exclusion can occur unknowingly due to prejudice and discrimination
1. Labour market exclusion
People without a home to call their own have mostly been forced to wander the streets as a result of loss of work or family misfortune. However, the government maintains that they are not willing to work despite being physically healthy and, therefore, refuses to provide any help, making life even harder for homeless people.
However, a survey found that 89% of homeless people had previously had a job, but that it was not enough for them to live on. Their jobs included working as unskilled construction labourers, cleaners, factory operators and kitchen hands. The survey also found that 71% of homeless people continued to work, such as by scavenging items to sell, distributing leaflets, holding advertisement boards and becoming background actors.
As most of these jobs are labour intensive and temporary, their average monthly salary is NT $4280, which amounts to just NT $143 per day.
2. Spatial exclusion
Indigenous people have been living in Taiwan for thousands of years. However, the island has been colonised and developed by the Dutch, Chinese and Japanese over the last 400 years, and the current dominance of the Han Taiwanese has resulted in the emptying of aboriginal community resources, basic infrastructure lagging behind and scarce job opportunities.
Statistics show that the average annual income of indigenous families is NT $650,000, which is 61% of the national average. In addition, 4% of indigenous families belong to the lowest income quintile in Taiwan. According to Taiwan’s legal definition of “low-income households”, 7.3% of indigenous households are classified as “low-income”, which is more than four times the national average. Data shows that the number of development opportunities available to indigenous people is much lower than in non-indigenous areas, which results in them facing social exclusion.
3. Racial exclusion
Taiwan is currently home to about 290,000 migrant workers from Southeast Asia who are engaged in the manufacturing or construction industries. They work nearly ten hours every day and earn an average of about NT $25,000 per month, which is a little higher than the minimum wage. However, 59.8% of these workers must pay additional fees to legal or illegal agencies, commission fees, etc.
Another 200,000 migrant workers are family carers. Among these workers, 10.3% have no more than eight hours rest per day, which includes the time that they need to sleep, and 68.6% have no days off. In addition, because they are not regulated by the Labour Standards Act, they receive an average monthly salary of about NT $18,000, which is lower than the minimum wage.
It is clear that the system does not guarantee the working conditions of migrant workers, meaning they must endure high risk and low wages, and making them vulnerable to being controlled by agencies.
4. Cultural exclusion
At present, there are 1.15 million people with disabilities in Taiwan, accounting for 4.92% of the total population. This number is showing a growth trend year on year. As the number of people with disabilities grows, overall demand for suitable leisure activities is also increasing.
A survey found that the most common leisure activity among the disabled was watching TV or videos, accounting for 53.79%. This was followed by walking (19.18%), playing computer and video games (9.37%), chatting (7.02%), listening to music (6.33%), reading books and magazines (3.7%), and so on.
In fact, whether or not a public space is convenient will affect whether people with disabilities are willing to go out for leisure activities. The above data shows that people with disabilities mostly engage in leisure activities inside, which may be due to a lack of accessible public facilities.
No-one is forgotten, bringing back those on the edge
Poverty and social exclusion often have a relationship of mutual cause and effect. Therefore, the EU is actively giving development opportunities to the disadvantaged in the hope of them being facilitated to participate in society together with everyone else. Such action is called “social inclusion”.
At the same time, an inclusive economy that tries to include the vulnerable in the production of value has also been developed in the private sector. Which social enterprises are helping excluded groups return to society in Taiwan?
After obtaining authorisation from the UK, The Big Issue was introduced to Taiwan and a local version was established. Magazines are provided to homeless people to sell on the street, allowing them to put up their hands to work with dignity, rather than put out their hands for welfare in shame.
Aurora Social Enterprise has penetrated deep into indigenous communities to train people in organic farming and to assist in packaging and marketing, so that indigenous people can find livelihood opportunities related to the land with which they are so familiar.
4-Way Voice Culture and Creativity Ltd has opened a multimedia channel that has allowed 800,000 immigrants and migrant workers to discover their talents and to overturn stereotypes held by the Taiwanese. It hopes to undermine unfriendly control by agencies and government policy.
OurCityLove Social Enterprise has recruited people with disabilities to survey the accessibility levels of restaurants and developed a “Friendly Restaurant Taipei” app to give people with limited mobility a guide that they can follow to enjoy the same leisure environments as everyone else.
The goal of social inclusion is not to resettle people, but to create a fair environment and make everyone a part of society. These four Taiwanese social enterprises are steadily putting this mission into practice.