Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Demographics of Taiwan

The Republic of China has a population of 22.2 million. More than 18 million, the "native" Taiwanese are descendants of Chinese who migrated from Fujian and Guangdong Provinces on the mainland, primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries. The "Mainlanders", who arrived on Taiwan after 1945, came from all parts of Mainland China. About 370,000 Taiwanese aborigines inhabit the mountainous central and eastern parts of the island and are believed to be of Malayo-Polynesian origin.


Population: 22,191,087 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 22% (male 2,485,421; female 2,292,901)
15-64 years: 70% (male 7,869,939; female 7,629,195)
65 years and over: 8% (male 1,013,074; female 900,557) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.81% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 14.42 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 5.91 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: -0.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.12 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 7.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 76.35 years
male: 73.62 years
female: 79.32 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.76 children born/woman (2000 est.)

noun: Chinese (singular and plural); Taiwanese (singular and plural). The issue of national identity is an rather controversial one on Taiwan. Almost all people on Taiwan will regard themselves as "hua ren" (華人) which is a term for Chinese in the ethnic sense and is used by
overseas Chinese around the world. Similarly virtually everyone in Taiwan will regard themselves as "Taiwan ren" which literally translates as person from Taiwan.

The controversial term is "Zhongguo ren" (中國人) which is translated as People of China (the country) but has a stronger political implication than the term "Hua ren." About 60 percent or so people on Taiwan will not object to being called "zhong guo ren," but there is a significant fraction of people (around 30 percent) on Taiwan who will be offended by the term. Although there are some correlations between these self-descriptions to ethnic characteristics, they largely reflect differences in what the political status of Taiwan should be.

adjective: Chinese; Taiwanese.

Ethnic groups

Han: Taiwanese (including Hakka) 84%, mainland Chinese 14%; aborigine 2%


Mixture of Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%

According to the ROC Interior Ministry figures, there are about 11.2 million religious believers in Taiwan, with more than 75% identifying themselves as Buddhists or Taoistss. At the same time there is a strong belief in Chinese folk religion throughout the island. These are not mutually exclusive, and many people practice a combination of the three. Confucianism also is an honored school of thought and ethical code. Christian churches have been active on Taiwan for many years, and today the island has more than 600,000 Christians, a majority of whom are Protestant.


Mandarin Chinese (official), Taiwanese (Min), Hakka dialects

A large majority of people on Taiwan speak Mandarin Chinese, which has been the medium of instruction in the schools for more than four decades. Native Taiwanese and many others also speak one of the Southern Fujianese dialects, Min-nan, also known as Taiwanese. Recently there has been a growing use of Taiwanese in the broadcast media. The Hakka, who are concentrated in several counties throughout Taiwan, have their own distinct dialect. As a result of the half century of Japanese rule, many people born before 1940 also can speak fluent Japanese.

The Wade-Giles system is commonly used for Chinese romanization on Taiwan, but Chinese romanization on Taiwan tends to be highly inconsistent with the only general rule that Hanyu Pinyin is not used. Unlike Mainland China, Taiwan does not use Roman letters in teaching pronunciation in schools but rather uses a system called Zhuyin. There have been efforts by the educational system to move toward a Roman-based system, but these have been slow due to bureaucratic inertia, political reluntance to follow mainland China's footsteps and the huge cost in teacher retraining.


A 9-year public educational system has been in effect since 1979. Six years of elementary school and 3 years of junior high are compulsory for all children. About 94.7% of junior high graduates continue their studies in either a senior high or vocational school. Reflecting a strong commitment to education, in FY 2001 16% of the ROC budget was allocated for education.

Taiwan has an extensive higher education system with more than 100 institutions of higher learning. Each year over 100,000 students take the joint college entrance exam; about 66.6% of the candidates are admitted to a college or university. Opportunities for graduate education are expanding in Taiwan, but many students travel abroad for advanced education, including 13,000 who study in the United States annually.

See also: List of universities in Taiwan

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 86% (1980 est.); note - literacy for the total population has reportedly increased to 94% (1998 est.)
male: 93% (1980 est.)
female: 79% (1980 est.)


Taiwan's culture is a blend of its distinctive Chinese heritage and Western influences. Fine arts, folk traditions, and popular culture embody traditional and modern, Asian, and Western motifs. One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the National Palace Museum, which houses over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain. This collection was moved from the mainland in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's administration fled to Taiwan. The collection is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any one time.

See also