Beggars in Taiwan

I’m noticing a lot of them. They seem to be all old men. In Taipei, in Taoyuan. What’s going on with them?

When I came for a week last April, I ran into one beggar who was a young man, and another young man who was drunk and crying and just wanted to talk. This time, no young down and outers, lots of old ones.

Back in Bawstin, we’ve got young drug addict losers hitting you up for change in the streets. I helped out in a food pantry, and the clientele were all ages, both genders, a mix of immigrants and what southerners call white trash. Some parts of the US are a little messed up, and I know exactly how and why because I grew up in a blue state. Here, I don’t know what’s going on. I know there are places in the world where poverty is normal, but this is a country that makes computers and flat panel TVs, and there’s even WiFi. It’s not Sierra Leone. So what’s the explanation?

Most of the beggars I see are old or disabled, or both. I usually see them with a government-issued ID card in their basket, so I assume they have been vetted by some official as really being in need.

The other group that I regularly see begging are Buddhist monks and nuns, but that’s just standard religious practice; I’ve heard that part of why they do it is to learn humility.

There is one young-ish woman I have seen, begging with a cloth “bowl” that she only takes out when people are approaching, and with no ID card. She is usually so heavily covered (including a face mask) that I’ve been wondering what’s up; her eyes looked terrible last time I saw her. I’m not sure if she is legitimately in need or not.

I don’t know why you are looking for an explanation. Every society has some individuals who cannot make it for some reason, whether it’s physical health, mental problems, or just bad luck.

As far as your question about what’s going on with poverty here: Taiwan doesn’t have a very generous social security system for old people. What do they normally get from the government, a couple thousand NT a month? Most of the poor old will focus on gathering things they can recycle or sell for money rather than beg. Most Taiwanese have too much pride to beg even if they are in need. One time I offered a red envelope to a poor old lady and she flat out refused to take it. I think a better question would be, Why aren’t there more beggars and homeless people in Taiwan?

There is a of hidden poverty in Taiwan, especially in rural areas. The social structure is breaking down and there is only a very rudimentary social net. If the elderly can find day work, they are luck to get NT$600 a day. Obviously there are the usual problems with alcohol and substance abuse. Many of the elderly homeless are in a sense from Sierra Leone. Taiwan was a third world country when they were young and through a combination of bad luck, poor decisions, and a lack of skills, they have been passed by in the modern Taiwan that makes the chips and TFT LCD screens.

On the plus side, most are very friendly and polite. There are very few aggressive homeless people like you meet in the States. Consider giving some of the down and out your pocket change occasionally even if they will probably blow it on cigarettes and rice wine. They would not be out on the streets if they didn’t have serious problems and nowhere to go.

I’ve not seen as many beggars in Taipei in recent years. Years ago I’d see them at night markets and in the crosswalk underpass routes. Many of them would have a bad leg or burns or something and display the limb or affected area to try and get more coin. Yikes…

I think people who are severely disabled now get a small stipend from the government. Also, the police are less tolerant than they used to be. Most of the homeless spend their time near Longshan temple and their numbers have increased in recent years. There are also a fair number near Taipei Main Station.

Teaching jobs are drying up.

Its not an obvious problem, I encounter homeless people sometimes who obviously has substance abuse issues or mental issues.
There is poverty in Taiwan but you don’t really see the begging and they usually have somewhere to stay. The main reason why they are so poor is lack of social safety net and family abandonment, that and WHO killing farming.

[quote=“headhonchoII”]Its not an obvious problem, I encounter homeless people sometimes who obviously has substance abuse issues or mental issues.
There is poverty in Taiwan but you don’t really see the begging and they usually have somewhere to stay. The main reason why they are so poor is lack of social safety net and family abandonment, that and WHO killing farming.[/quote]

I do a lot of walking and biking at night and there are a surprising number that I see on park benches all over Kaohsiung. I’m guessing it’s still a small number compared to the US, SE Asia or South America. Those are places that I’ve been and seen before but it’s definitely still here. I don’t see a lot of begging though.


Homeless, Kaohsiung, Taiwan by abacus07, on Flickr
For awhile this spot had 3 people sleeping on the 3 benches most nights but I haven’t seen them recently. Maybe they set up a little later now or maybe they have been hassled by authorities to stay away (more out of sight).

Does anybody know how that works? Do they have a point system of some kind?

I’m not in the labor pension plan. I’m just curious.