TAIPEI (CNA) — The household income gap in Taiwan widened slightly in 2018 as income growth enjoyed by high income households continued to top the growth of lower income households, according to the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS).
The DGBAS said categories of households in five groups in Taiwan based on income and disposable income of the top 20 percent of households hit NT$2.099 million (US$66,847) on average in 2018, up 2.2 percent from a year earlier.
On the other hand, the DGBAS added that the disposable income of the 20 percent of the households at the bottom stood at only NT$345,000 in 2018, up 2.0 percent from a year earlier.
The data shows that the disposable income of the top group was 6.09 times that of the bottom group, up from 6.07 times recorded in 2017, according to the DGBAS.
The 2018 data marked the second consecutive year for the household income gap to grow in Taiwan. In 2016, the gap stood at 6.08 times before falling in 2017, the data shows.
Asked to comment whether the widening wealth gap indicates a deteriorating income distribution in Taiwan, DGBAS chief Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) did not directly respond, saying only that the household income could be affected by a fall in the number of people in a household.
Chu said that based on the disposable income of individuals, the top group’s figure was only 3.90 times that of the bottom group in 2018, up slightly from 3.89 times in 2017, when the gap stayed unchanged from a year earlier.
Chu said the increase of the latest disposable income gap of individuals was “minor.”
Citing the Gini coefficient in Taiwan, which is used internationally to measure statistical dispersion intended to represent the income or wealth distribution of a country’s residents, Chu said the index stood at 0.338 in 2018, up only 0.001 from a year earlier, which provides further evidence that Taiwan’s income gap is also minor.
Chu said the government has continued to push for various social welfare packages in an attempt to assuage the impact resulting from the widening income gap.
According to the DGBAS, the subsidies provided by the government to low income households, the elderly in low- to mid-income households and senior farmers, among many other measures, have lowered the income gap.
The data shows that the total household expenses in Taiwan hit NT$7.013 trillion in 2018, up 0.9 percent from a year earlier, with an average of NT$811,000, unchanged from a year earlier.
The DGBAS said that spending on housing, utilities and fuel accounted for 23.9 percent of household expenses in 2018, ahead of medical care expenses at 15.9 percent.
The average household savings hit NT$225,000 in 2018, up 8.5 percent from a year earlier. In 2018, 95.2 percent and 86.1 percent of the households in Taiwan owned smartphones and cable TV channels, respectively, with 66.8 percent of them having computers, the DGBAS said.
About 95 percent of those households that owned computers used the Internet in 2018, the DGBAS added.
By Pan Tzu-yu and Frances Huang