A hallmark of Taiwan today is the high level of participation by women at all levels of society. The empowerment of women contributes to Taiwan’s economic growth, political stability and social progress. It represents not only progress within Taiwan but showcases an important asset that Taiwan presents to the world.
Taiwan’s progress on women’s empowerment is significant. The election of Tsai Ing-wen as the first female head of state in Taiwan in 2016 is the most obvious example. President Tsai is not the first female chief executive in Asia, but she is the first female elected leader in the region whose political career did not originate with a political family or the political career of a spouse. Her election was the direct result of her achievements as a professional in academia and as a trusted figure in Taiwanese government circles.
Women have held important political positions in Taiwan before President Tsai’s election. Annette Lu was vice president from 2000-2008. Membership in the Legislative Yuan is now 38 percent female, significantly ahead of the international average of 22 percent, and the current leader of the largest opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), is Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu.
The empowerment of women is about giving all women the tools they need to play a greater role in society and the economy for protecting families, which require a solid economic foundation. Women in Taiwan in 2015 earned 83% of their male counterparts. Mothers in Taiwan receive full pay during eight weeks of maternity leave and 60% of their salary for their next six-month infant care leave. Also, companies in Taiwan employing 100 workers or more are required to provide nursing rooms and childcare facilities. Taiwan’s sound record on women’s empowerment issues is reflected in the United Nation’s Gender Inequality Index (GII). In 2014, Taiwan took fifth place out of 155 countries worldwide, as measured by the index.
At the International Women’s Executive Committee meeting in November 2016, President Tsai committed to raising the female labor force participation rate, which stood at 50.74 percent in 2015, the level at which it has remained for several years. President Tsai’s pledge came as part of the government’s effort to support women at work, which includes equal wages, parental leave, promotions and child care support.
Gender equality is a key area of cooperation with the United States. The close ties between the United States and Taiwan are based on shared values of democracy, economic freedom, and human rights, as well as close economic and security ties. As part of the relationship, both sides are committed to the empowerment of women, recognizing that the substantive involvement of women in economic activities naturally contributes to stronger economic performance in our respective countries. In addition, when Taiwan and the United States work together to facilitate the empowerment of women in developing countries, they are also promoting economic growth in other parts of the world.
In 2015 Taiwan and the United States established Global Cooperation & Training Framework (GCTF), a bilateral mechanism through which both sides can address global challenges by providing training projects around the world. The key areas for 2016 included women’s empowerment, public health, energy efficiency and Information Communication Technology (ICT). An early GCTF project related to women’s empowerment was the workshop, Enhancing Prosperity and Opportunity for Women in the Asia-Pacific Region, held in Taipei in March 2016. Kurt Tong, then U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs noted the conference would “bring together government and civil society leaders, primarily from the Asian and Pacific region, to discuss ways that we can promote and create political and economic empowerment to women and create a more inclusive society.” The workshop was intended to formulate policies, and to share practical experiences and models of successful female-run businesses in the region.
Melanne Verveer, the first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, visited Taiwan in September, 2016, attending the two-day Conclusive Meeting of Innovation for Women and Economic Development Project, sponsored by the Gender Equality Committee of Taiwan’s Executive Yuan (the Cabinet). Her visit highlighted the joint efforts of Taiwan and the US to bring attention to women’s issues, as well as to increase momentum for endeavors by both countries to promote gender equality throughout the world.
In addition to empowering women at home, Taiwan is pursuing the empowerment of women internationally through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC). The most recent and significant step taken by the United States and Taiwan came at the November 2016 APEC Summit in Peru, where the two sides announced the intention to create an APEC sub-fund on women and the economy. Dr. James Soong, Taiwan’s Special Envoy to the Summit, emphasized that the sub-fund will support the five pillars of the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy: access to capital, access to market, skills and capacity building, women’s leadership and innovation and technology. US senior officials pointed out that, through the new sub-fund, “APEC economies would be able to apply for funding to support new or existing APEC initiatives focused specifically on women’s economic empowerment.”
The joint efforts on women’s empowerment within APEC are just one element of the strong Taiwan-US relationship, which has persisted through different US administrations and which enjoys bipartisan support in the US Congress. Our bilateral cooperation on economic issues, including women’s economic empowerment, contributes to economic growth worldwide. This partnership truly demonstrates how much Taiwan and the U.S. can achieve together to make the world more secure, freeand prosperous.
The main point: Taiwan boasts a high level of participation by women at all levels of society. The empowerment of women contributes to Taiwan’s economic growth, political stability and social progress. Taiwan is committed to empowering women all over the world through its activities in multilateral forums such as APEC and in its partnership with the US.