COUNTRY BRIEFINGFROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNITRISK RATINGSCurrentCurrentPreviousPrevious
       Â RatingScoreRatingScore
       Overall assessmentB23B23
       Macroeconomic riskA15A15
       Note: E=most risky; 100=most risky.SUMMARYIn 2001 Taiwan's dependence on exports, and on the high-tech sector, led to the sharpest economic downturn in 26 years. Since then external demand has been stable, but domestic demand has been under-performing. The economy has been picking up since mid-2003. However, since the main driver is still external demand, the country remains vulnerable to shocks from abroad and volatility in the foreign exchange rate market. Consumer prices have been soft in recent years, although there is a risk that high oil prices could ultimately filter into local prices.SCENARIOSThe current economic upturn is not sustainedModerate likelihood; High impact; Intensity =12Taiwan is highly dependent on exports to maintain strong growth. While the performance of the economies of its main markets--the US, China, the EU and Japan--was respectable in 2007, the outlook in the US remains uncertain, particularly in the light of high oil prices, economic weakness and turbulence in financial markets. China also has several economic imbalances. Taiwan’s dependence on these markets could undermine the domestic economy if growth overseas deteriorates more sharply than the Economist Intelligence Unit is forecasting. The importance of the Chinese market raises particular concerns: the Chinese government is currently trying to slow its economy down owing to signs of overheating. Although the impact on Taiwanese companies should be limited by the fact that China is mainly trying to slow investment, while Taiwan largely exports intermediate goods for processing, it is possible that the Chinese government's efforts could overshoot, undermining China's broader economy—the economy recorded year-on-year growth of 10.1% in the second quarter of 2008, compared with 10.6% in the first quarter. Furthermore, as its recovery ultimately remains largely driven by exports, Taiwan remains vulnerable to volatility in international foreign exchange markets, which could affect trade flows. Companies making investments in Taiwan based on domestic demand trends should ensure the island-state's economic vulnerability to a downturn in the global economic cycle is incorporated into their investment appraisal calculations.The fiscal position weakens, undermining investor confidence and, over time, pushing up local interest ratesModerate likelihood; Moderate impact; Intensity =9The government's inability to improve its tax revenue-raising performance has limited its overall tax take in recent years, even as government spending rises to finance stimulus and social spending. As a result, the fiscal position, although having enjoyed a cyclical improvement in 2007, will remain a concern. Public debt, which currently stands at close to 30% of GDP, would rise faster than is currently forecast if the economy were to deteriorate, rising at a time when debt servicing is taking up a higher proportion of government expenditure. Furthermore, the debt figures do not include contingent liabilities such as credit guarantees on infrastructure projects or bad loans in the banking system. The new president, Mr Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang, will enjoy the support of parliament, which will mean that he will have little difficulty passing spending bills. Most of the debt is denominated in domestic currency and financed through domestic bond issuance, so there is little external debt risk. However, increased government borrowing in the local markets could over time put upward pressure on interest rates, and persistently high deficits would undermine investor confidence. The fact that Taiwan is not a member of any multi-lateral organisation means that should a crisis arise, the government might not have access to the concessional lending available to members of such organisations. Investors should track the state of the government's finances; deterioration in these could result in increased corporate and personal taxes. This would undermine confidence in both the business sector and that of consumers.A banking sector crisis results in an economic downturnLow likelihood; High impact; Intensity =8Given the importance of the banking sector in recycling funds in order to maintain economic growth, the sector's vulnerability in recent years has caused concern. Non-performing loans (NPLs) have been falling since 2002, aided by capital infusions from the government and greater bad loan write-offs by banks, but the system remains overbanked. The excess competition that this implies means that banks could still be tempted to issue risky loans in order to maintain or secure market share. The rise in non-performing credit card debt in 2005 and the first half of 2006 highlighted this risk. Nevertheless, a crisis looks unlikely. The banking sector has been supported by greater economic stability since 2004, which should help to push up interest-income. The entry of foreign financial groups witnessed over the last two years should encourage consolidation among local banks, which themselves have improved their balance sheets and capital adequacy rations over the same period. However, companies should ensure that any bank they rely on, either to store deposits or as part of their operating activity, is of sufficient financial strength.The sub-prime problems in the US undermine Taiwan's financial marketsModerate likelihood; High impact; Intensity =12The ongoing problems in the US sub-prime mortgage sector that spread in summer 2007 first to the collateralised debt markets and next to the global money markets, have triggered fears of a global credit-crunch. In the face of urgent moves by central banks in the US, Europe and Japan to add significant amounts of liquidity to their banking systems, the domestic money and foreign-exchange markets in Asia as a whole appear to be functioning in an orderly fashion. It is likely that the Central Bank of China (Taiwan's central bank) would be ready to act if the situation warranted it. An important reason why Asia has so far withstood so well the fallout from the US sub-prime mortgage crisis is the region's high level of foreign-exchange reserves. Another important factor is that the exposure of the Asian financial sector to the US sub-prime-related problems is believed to be relatively small by comparison with the exposure of the US and European financial sectors. The main threat to Asia from the US sub-prime problems would be the risk of an unexpected slowdown in the US economy leading to a cyclical downturn in world trade. At present, the outlook for the global economy remains encouraging. Investors should monitor the balance sheets of partners in order to check that the true level of exposure has been recognised.BACKGROUND(Updated: January 31st, 2008)Economic structureMain economic indicators, 2006
       (Economist Intelligence Unit estimates unless
otherwise indicated)
       Real GDP growth (%)4.6(a)
       Consumer price inflation (av; %)0.6(a)
       Current-account balance (US$ m)25,187
       Exchange rate (av; NT$:US$)32.5(a)
       Population (m)22.9(a)
       External debt (year-end; US$ m)97,247
       (a) Actual.
       Source: Economist Intelligence Unit,
CountryData.When the Kuomintang (KMT, Nationalist Party) government arrived from the Chinese mainland in 1949, Taiwan had an agrarian economy based on sugar and rice. Rapid industrial development in the 1950s was followed by an export-oriented boom in cheap manufactures in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, a time of rising wages and a strengthening currency, Taiwan began to focus more on capital- and technology-intensive industries, particularly electrical goods and chemicals, and the island became one of the world’s largest producers of computer-related products. In recent years, Taiwan has become an increasingly important producer of semiconductors and liquid crystal display (LCD) units, and there remains a desire to capitalise on its electronics expertise in more traditional sectors such as automotive.Facing rising costs, in the late 1980s Taiwan’s manufacturing industries began to move their production bases overseas. Initially, most relocated to countries in South-east Asia, but since Taiwan’s government began to ease restrictions on cross-Strait economic ties in the early 1990s, China has become an increasingly important investment location. As a result of this move overseas, the manufacturing sector’s share of GDP fell from a peak of 39.4% in 1986 to 25.7% in 2006, whereas the services sector’s share of GDP has climbed from 47.3% to 68.6% during the same period. The relative decline in the importance of manufacturing is likely to continue. Since the late 1990s high-technology firms have joined their more traditional counterparts in shifting capacity to mainland China, and the Taiwan government has been forced to reduce restrictions on technology transfer to China.Industrial production is concentrated in the two largest cities—the capital, Taipei, in the north and Kaohsiung in the south. The cradle of Taiwan’s information technology (IT) hardware industry is the government’s Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park (HSIP), south-west of Taipei, which opened in 1980 and has been enlarged several times since then. In 2004 firms in the HSIP recorded total revenue of NT$1.9trn (US$56bn), up by 27% year on year, and total external trade of NT$888.6bn (US$26.6bn), up by 45%. In the late 1990s the government established a second high-tech park, focusing on opto-electronics, in Tainan in the south, and a third park has opened near the central city of Taichung.Comparative economic indicators, 2006
       Â Taiwan(a)Hong Kong(b)China(b)US(a)Japan(b)
       GDP (US$ bn)356.0192.52,681.413,253.94,377.5
       GDP per head (US$)15,698(b)27,7322,03944,26834,343
       GDP per head (US$ at PPP)31,485(b)36,9587,49644,26832,097
       Consumer price inflation (av; %)0.62.0(a)1.43.20.2(a)
       Current-account balance (US$ bn)25.224.1207.9-853.3(b)184.4
       Current-account balance (% of GDP)7.112.57.8-6.4(b)4.2
       Exports of goods fob (US$ bn)223.8324.4970.01,023.7(b)611.3
       Imports of goods fob (US$ bn)-200.5-333.5-792.4-1,859.8(b)-530.7
       External debt (year-end; US$ bn)97.2(b)73.1307.9––
       Debt-service ratio, paid (%)3.4(b)2.33.2––
       (a) Actual.
(b) Economist Intelligence Unit estimates.
       Source: Economist Intelligence Unit,
CountryData.Economic PolicyOn one hand, the government has sought to keep microregulation to a minimum in areas such as the labour market, thereby facilitating the development of a vibrant small and medium-sized enterprise sector that has focused on the manufacture of goods for export. On the other, the government has used intervention, regulation and bureaucratic diktat both to guide the direction of economic development and to maintain overall economic stability in the face of the military threat from mainland China. The government has therefore invested in industrial parks and taken on some of the financial risks involved in the development of new industries. It has also maintained restrictions on portfolio and other types of capital flows, and been slow to follow the global trend towards privatisation. Alongside these measures, officials have used tariff and non-tariff barriers to protect some sectors of the economy, notably agriculture, and have imposed restrictions on the ability of local firms to trade with and invest in mainland China.Taiwan’s overall economic record—macroeconomic stability, high rates of GDP growth and low unemployment—is testament to the broad success of these policies. They have not, however, been without their drawbacks. Protection of some sectors of the economy has adversely affected the ability of the industries concerned to keep pace with global trends in competitiveness. Limits on capital flows have contributed to inefficiency in the financial sector. Furthermore, the restrictions imposed on commercial links across the Taiwan Strait have added to the costs faced by local firms wishing to invest and trade in China. In addition, the government has found it increasingly difficult in recent years to keep microregulation of the domestic economy to a minimum. The increasing affluence and self-confidence of the population has prompted greater popular demands for the government to do more in areas such as the protection of workers’ rights and the provision of more comprehensive welfare payments.Faced with these pressures and demands, beginning in the late 1980s officials have been trying to liberalise the economy. Since 1989 the authorities have, for example, been slowly selling off Taiwan’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In October 2004 the government announced its intention to halve the number of state-owned banks to six by the end of 2005—but backsliding by the government in 2006 resulted in major consolidation plans being put on hold. In 1990 the government also started to pursue membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It was motivated in part by the desire to liberalise further the domestic economy, although joining the WTO also held political attractions for the government (see Politics: International relations and defence). In membership negotiations the government pledged to open up Taiwan’s domestic markets to foreign competition, and the government quickly started implementing these measures after the island finally entered the WTO in January 2002.Deregulation of the economy was also an aim of the plan launched in 1994 to turn Taiwan into an Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Centre (APROC). As originally formulated, APROC envisaged Taiwan becoming a regional centre for multinational companies in six areas: manufacturing, telecommunications, air transport, sea transport, financial services and media. In addition to infrastructural developments, market-opening and deregulation were stressed as central elements of this endeavour. Originally launched to great fanfare, in reality not much attention has been paid to the plan, largely because the ban on direct links with China, still in force, has limited the extent to which Taiwan can realistically serve as a regional operations centre. Although without the wide-ranging effects that were originally foreseen, the APROC scheme nonetheless reinforced the liberalisation trend in economic policy in Taiwan in the 1990s.Despite these changes in the 1990s, the government did not completely abandon its interventionist approach to economic management. Industrial policy, which began to play a central role in the government’s attempts to guide the direction of economic development in Taiwan in the 1950s, has remained important. The government has played a particularly active role in the development of Taiwan’s world-class high-technology sector. Government-funded research, carried out by the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), formed the basis of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry (Taiwan’s two most important microchip companies, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and United Microelectronics, were originally created as spin-offs from ITRI). ITRI also played an important part in the development of the island’s computer industry. Under the Statute for Industrial Upgrading, high-tech firms have benefited from various kinds of official largesse, such as tariff-free imports and tax holidays.Although a contributor to the explosive growth of Taiwan’s high-tech industry in the 1990s (see Economic sectors: Manufacturing), the financial assistance granted to the IT sector has been controversial. It has, for example, created resentment among companies in more traditional industries. Some critics have even alleged that the government’s system of preferential taxes has caused exactly the kind of distortion in capital allocation that contributed to the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98. High-tech advocates retort that Taiwan’s shortage of land, water and other natural resources militates in favour of high-tech industries, which are far more economical than traditional heavy industries in their use of resource inputs.The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which became the governing party in 2000, is sympathetic to the complaints of traditional industries. The DPP has, however, responded not by curtailing the benefits enjoyed by high-tech companies but by extending these incentives to traditional firms. This may be understandable from an industrial point of view: officials worry that increasing taxes on the IT industry would quicken the migration of manufacturing industry from the island that is already under way. However, the tax incentives granted to industry are not without their costs. According to the Ministry of Finance (MOF), government revenue between 1990 and 1998 was US$19.8bn lower than it would otherwise have been without the fiscal incentives granted under the Statute for Industrial Upgrading. Partly as a consequence, government revenue fell from 24.7% of GDP in 1992 to only 17.6% in 2001. Revenue has since recovered, helped by an expansion in economic activity, but it remains low, standing at an estimated 18.4% of GDP in 2006.On a relative basis, government spending declined between 1992 and 2003, from 28.1% of GDP to 22.8%, before a slight increase to an estimated 23.1% of GDP in 2005. Attempts to control government expenditure have not, however, been evenly spread. Spending on social security more than tripled to NT$203.7bn between fiscal year 1990/91 (July-June) and fiscal year 2001 (January-December), for example, and has remained on a broadly upward trend. Spending on general administration and on education, science and culture has also increased steadily, whereas spending on national defence has been pared back in recent years.Given that expenditure has fallen as a proportion of GDP, the persistent and partly structural budget deficit is explained by weak revenue growth: although the recent economic recovery has fed through into higher levels of revenue collection, structural problems remain. An increase in the rate of value-added tax from 5% to 7% has been suggested, but this would require the consent of the opposition-dominated Legislative Yuan (parliament). The fiscal deficit hit a high of 6.4% of GDP in 2001, but fell back to 2.3% of GDP in 2006.The Central Bank of China (CBC, Taiwan’s central bank) enjoys a degree of autonomy—the governor is appointed on a five-yearly basis—but it is not an independent institution in the mould of, for example, the US Federal Reserve. Thus, although in theory the bank alone determines the direction of monetary policy, in practice it shares this responsibility with a number of other agencies. The CBC is not as focused on the control of inflation as more modern central banks elsewhere in the world. Restraining price rises is important to the CBC—the need to avoid a repeat of the hyperinflation experienced in China in the late 1940s is embedded in the bank’s culture—but legally the bank is also required to promote financial stability, guide sound banking operations and foster economic development. The bank has traditionally adopted a highly interventionist approach to achieving these aims. High reserve ratios, for example, have been used to control inflation (although in recent years the CBC has begun to cut reserve requirements in line with international norms). The bank also keeps a close eye on the foreign-exchange market, using its own reserves and influence to regulate the value of the local currency.One of the most vexing economic issues facing the government is managing the gradual integration of the economies of China and Taiwan. According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, government-approved investment in mainland China totalled US$37.7bn between 1994 and 2004. But private estimates put the figure much higher, at US$100bn. China’s Ministry of Commerce reports that some 3,752 Taiwan-funded projects in China were approved in 2006, adding up to US$11.3bn in investment commitments (of which US$2.1bn had actually been invested by the start of 2007); the Taiwan government estimates US$7.7bn in investment commitments in China in 2006.These huge investment flows have occurred despite government restrictions. Mainland investment was officially banned until 1991. Even after this blanket restriction was lifted, the Taiwan government continued to insist that any investment in China be routed through a third area, usually Hong Kong. Furthermore, under the “less haste, be patient” policy introduced by the former president, Lee Teng-hui, the government sought to prevent Taiwan companies from investing more than US$50m in any single project on the mainland, and forbade any investment in mainland infrastructure projects. Mr Lee tried to encourage local firms to invest in South-east Asia instead, in what was termed the “go south” strategy.The “less haste, be patient” policy was deeply unpopular with many of Taiwan’s business leaders, for whom the reasons to invest in China (proximity, lower costs, cultural affinity) were overwhelming. Responding to this feeling, Mr Lee’s successor, Chen Shui-bian of the DPP, promised to adopt a new approach to cross-Strait economic relations. In 2001 Mr Chen formed a cross-party Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC). Reporting in August that year, the EDAC recommended a “vigorous opening of cross-Strait trade and investment”. As part of this, the Council called for Taiwan firms to be allowed to invest directly in mainland China and sought an easing of the US$50m investment ceiling. In the final months of 2001, under a new policy of “active opening, effective management”, the government started to implement many of these recommendations.Taiwan’s business community gave a cautious welcome to these changes. Many business leaders feared that the government, led by the DPP, which has traditionally favoured promoting a Taiwan identity, did not really want to open up links with the mainland at all, with the changes announced in late 2001 and early 2002 amounting more to style than substance. In other words, “effective management” (which for many is indistinguishable from the “less haste, be patient” approach) rather than “active opening” was the guiding principle for the government’s policy towards the mainland. These criticisms were overdone; the policy changes introduced by the government as a result of the EDAC’s recommendations were real. In his 2006 New Year address, Mr Chen outlined a new policy to govern cross-Strait trade relations. He indicated that he would reverse the priorities, referring to the new policy line as “active management, effective opening”. The policy shift, however, received a cool reception from the business community, which generally would like to see fewer restrictions not more. One positive development in January 2005 was the first two-way direct chartered flights between Taiwan and the mainland since 1949; the flights ran during the Chinese New Year holiday that started at the end of that month. New Year flights were expanded in 2006, and the process is expected to become routine in the future.Economic performanceGross domestic product
       (% change, year on year)
       Â Â Annual average
       Â 20062002-06
       Private consumption1.52.3
       Government consumption-0.20.6
       Gross fixed investment0.33.5
       Exports of goods & services10.111.0
       Imports of goods & services5.78.5
       GDP4.64.5
       Source: Economist Intelligence Unit.The economy has developed rapidly since the 1950s, with GDP growing by an annual average of over 9% between 1960 and 1980. The trend rate of GDP growth has, however, clearly slowed over the years. Between 1990 and 1997 GDP growth averaged a more moderate 6.7%, and in 1998, dragged down by the Asian financial crisis, the economy expanded by an even slower 4.6%. GDP grew by more than 5% in 1999 and 2000, but in line with a pronounced economic downturn in the US and plummeting domestic consumer and investor confidence it contracted by 2.2% in 2001. The economy did grow in 2002, but only by 4.2%, a rate of growth that just two years earlier would have been viewed in Taiwan as tantamount to a recession. An economic recovery in 2003 was interrupted by the outbreak in the first half of the year of the highly contagious Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). As a consequence, the economy grew by just 3.4% in that year. It subsequently recovered, expanding by 6.1% in 2004, but growth slowed again in 2005, to only 4%. Private consumption growth dipped again in 2006, owing somewhat to credit restrictions, partly offsetting the effects of stronger export expansion, and holding overall GDP growth down to 4.6%.Taiwan has only a small domestic market, so economic success is primarily the result of the development of a vibrant export-oriented sector. According to the Ministry of Finance, the value of Taiwan’s merchandise exports was US$224bn in 2006 (an increase of 12.9% year on year). In 2006 exports of goods and services were equivalent to 71.7% of GDP, measured at current prices.The performance of the export sector had until recently been mirrored by growth in gross fixed investment. Partly as a result of the continual upgrading of the export sector, private-sector investment grew by an average of over 10% per year in 1990-2000. Conversely, when export growth collapsed in 2001, so did capital spending, which contracted by 19.9% in that year, followed by a fall of 0.6% in 2002. Exports, and thus investment, began to grow by the end of 2002, but the recovery stalled in the second quarter of 2003 as the Iraq war and outbreak of SARS dampened overseas and domestic demand. This resulted in gross fixed investment contracting by a further 0.9% in 2003. An economic recovery in Taiwan’s main export markets did, however, result in healthy investment growth of 17.5% in 2004 (investment growth has traditionally been driven by export-oriented firms). But slower export growth in 2005 resulted in real investment growth of just 1.2%, and investment growth declined further, to only 0.3% in 2006, primarily owing to a reversion of transport equipment investment to more normal levels. As Taiwan firms have to buy much of their equipment from overseas, the boom and bust of investment spending has affected the island’s import bill. Imports of capital goods rose from 15.9% of total imports in 1994 to 28% in 2000, but have declined since then, to stand at just 17% of the total in 2006.Boosted by rapidly rising incomes and an increase in the availability of credit, private consumption grew by an average of around 8% per year in the ten years to 1998. Private consumption growth softened thereafter, posting an annual average rate of 5% in 1999-2000 and an even weaker 1.3% in 2001-03. A number of factors had contributed to the sharp deterioration in consumer confidence, including unemployment, weak asset prices and concerns about political instability. However, by end-2003 private consumption growth had begun to firm, boosted by the recovering economy and a related rebound in asset prices, as well as by signs of an improvement in the labour market, with unemployment falling back to 3.9% by December 2005. As a result, private consumption grew by 3.9% in 2004 and 2.7% in 2005. However, concerns about the expansion of consumer credit led commercial banks to tighten lending practices, while increased political volatility undermined consumer confidence. The result of these factors was a slowdown in private consumption growth to just 1.5% in 2006.On an output basis, GDP growth in recent years has been led by the services sector, which grew by an annual average rate of 5.4% per year between 1994 and 2004, before dipping to 3.5% in 2005 and 3.7% in 2006. From less than 50% of current-price GDP in the late 1980s, services increased to account for around 73% of the total in 2006. Growth in industrial output (on a national accounts basis) was slow during 2000-04, dragged down by the slump in the construction sector that followed the boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but picked up to 5.9% in 2005 and 6.7% in 2006. Growth in Taiwan's manufacturing output, meanwhile, has been affected by the migration of lower-end capacity overseas, and in both 2005 and 2006 it was just 1.1%. Nonetheless, “hollowing out” has not been as serious a problem for Taiwan as is often thought. Much high-end manufacturing has remained on the island, and even in 2006 the sector as a whole still accounted for a respectable 21.4% of GDP.As measured by changes in the consumer price index (CPI), the rate of inflation in Taiwan has moderated in the last ten years. Prices rose by an average of 3.8% in 1991-95 but by just 1.4% per year in 1996-2000. After being flat in 2001, consumer prices fell slightly in both 2002 and 2003. Active monetary management by the CBC has been important in restraining increases in the general level of prices. Structural factors have also played a key role, with the policies of deregulation, which the government has followed since the late 1980s, leading to more intense competition in the domestic economy. In 2001-03 downward pressure on prices was exacerbated by the poor health of the banking sector. The economic recovery in 2004 saw price inflation become positive once again, with consumer prices rising by an annual average rate of 1.6%. This was followed by an increase in consumer prices of 2.3% in 2005, but the rate of inflation slipped back to just 0.6% in 2006, with prices falling during much of the second half of the year.Inflation
       (% change)
       Â Â Annual average
       Â 20062002-06
       Consumer price inflation0.60.8
       Sources: Directorate-General of Budget,
Accounting and Statistics; Economist Intelligence Unit.Cyclical economic problems are not solely responsible for the ending of the near-full employment that accompanied Taiwan’s rapid economic development in 1960-90: unemployment had started to rise even before the economic downturns of 1998 and 2001. The underlying rise in joblessness is largely the result of structural factors, as manufacturing capacity continues to migrate from Taiwan to cheaper locations overseas, particularly mainland China. However, the problem should not be overstated: the unemployment rate averaged just 3.9% in 2006, a ratio that would be envied by many developed countries.Hourly earnings in manufacturing, 2005
       (US$)
       Â 2005
       Taiwan6.38
       Hong Kong5.65
       Singapore7.66
       South Korea13.56
       Source: US Department of Labour, International
Comparisons of Hourly Costs for Production Workers in Manufacturing.According to US Department of Labour statistics, during the 1980s the real hourly wage earned by workers in Taiwan’s manufacturing sector increased by an average of around 8% per year. Manufacturing wages, which had risen by 6.4% in 1981, rose by an average of 10.8% in 1990. Income inflation eased during the next few years, with wages rising by an average of just 1.4% per year in 1994-98. Wages started to increase rapidly again in 1999-2000 alongside the economic recovery that followed the regional downturn of 1998, but then fell in 2001 as Taiwan’s economy sank into recession. In 2005 the average worker in Taiwan’s manufacturing sector earned US$6.38/hour, an amount comparable with the US$5.65/hour earned by workers in Hong Kong but well behind average hourly wages of US$23.65 in the US.


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