Charity, Welfare, and Begging: Taiwan

By | February 17, 2010

A country without good social security disability? Yes, afraid so. Taiwan has the beginnings of a welfare system that looks out for the less well-off people in society. But there are many groups that would otherwise be covered in the UK or the US that receive nothing in welfare benefits, and are often forced to make their own way in society.

For some, it’s not a challenge as they have skill sets that are in demand, but for many without proper education, it’s difficult. When you visit Taiwan, you’ll see such disadvantaged people at train stations or in night markets. They’ll be there, sitting at the edge of the road, or in wheelchairs trying to sell lottery cards and tissues. Occasionally, on bridges and overpasses, you’ll see people injured in work-related accidents (perhaps without a hand or leg) begging for coppers or notes.

Don’t get me wrong, workers are indeed covered by labor insurance coverage and health care. But, too often, people fall through the cracks in the system… perhaps they were injured before the law was passed, perhaps their company didn’t provide coverage, perhaps they were just temporary workers… Who knows? Without a general welfare system, Taiwanese tend to rely on family and friends for immediate help. But for some individuals, such resources are unavailable or impossible to find.

Providing aid doesn’t always come easy… one time, we approached an elderly lady begging on the streets and offered her some money. Instead of just thanking us, she tried to negotiate her way up in price! Interesting … I’m still not sure why she did that.