Economy of Taiwan

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Economy of Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan CBD Skyline.jpg
Taipei, the capital city and financial centre of Taiwan
CurrencyNew Taiwan dollar (NTD)
Calendar year
Trade organizations
WTO, APEC, ICC and others
(as Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu)
Country group
PopulationIncrease 23,604,265 (January, 2020)[3]
  • Decrease $586.104 billion (nominal, 2019 est.)[4]
  • Increase $1.340 trillion (PPP, 2019)[5]
GDP rank
GDP growth
  • 2.7% (2018) 2.7% (2019)
  • −4.0% (2020e) 3.5% (2021e)[5]
GDP per capita
  • Decrease $24,828 (nominal, 2019 est.)[4]
  • Increase $55,078 (PPP, 2019 est.)[4]
GDP per capita rank
GDP by sector
0.5% (2020 est.)[5]
Population below poverty line
1.5% (2012 est.)[6]
33.6 medium (2014)[6]
Increase 0.911 very high (2018)[7] (21st)
Labor force
11.78 million (2017 est.)[6]
Labor force by occupation
UnemploymentPositive decrease 3.8% (2017 est.)[6]
Main industries
Decrease 15th (very easy, 2020)[8]
ExportsIncrease $349.8 billion (2017 est.)[6]
Export goods
semiconductors, petrochemicals, automobile/auto parts, ships, wireless communication equipment, flat display displays, steel, electronics, plastics, computers
Main export partners
ImportsIncrease $269 billion (2017 est.)[6]
Import goods
oil/petroleum, semiconductors, natural gas, coal, steel, computers, wireless communication equipment, automobiles, fine chemicals, textiles
Main import partners
FDI stock
  • Decrease $78.3 billion (31 December 2017 est.)[6]
  • Decrease Abroad: $332.4 billion (31 December 2017 est.)[6]
Increase $82.88 billion (2017 est.)[6]
Negative increase $181.9 billion (31 December 2017 est.)[6]
Public finances
Positive decrease 35.7% of GDP (2017 est.)[6][note 1]
−0.1% (of GDP) (2017 est.)[6]
Revenues91.62 billion (2017 est.)[6]
Expenses92.03 billion (2017 est.)[6]
Foreign reserves
Increase $456.7 billion (31 December 2017 est.)[6]
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.

The economy of Taiwan is a developed capitalist economy that ranks as the seventh largest in Asia and 22nd-largest in the world by purchasing power parity (PPP). It is included in the advanced economies group[12] by the International Monetary Fund and gauged in the high-income economies group by the World Bank.[13] Taiwan is the most technologically advanced computer microchip maker in the world.[14][15][16][17]

As of 2018, telecommunication, financial services and utility services are three highest individuals paid sectors in Taiwan.[18] The economy of Taiwan ranks the highest in Asia for 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) for specific strengths.[19] Most large government-owned banks and industrial firms have been privatized, and now family owned businesses are the streamlined economic factors in Taiwan.[20] With the technocracy-centered economic planning[21] under martial law until 1987, real growth in GDP has averaged about 8% during the past three decades. Exports have grown even faster and since World War II, have provided the primary impetus for industrialization. Inflation and unemployment are low; the trade surplus is substantial; and foreign reserves are the world's fourth largest. Agriculture contributes 3% to GDP, down from 35% in 1952, and the service sector makes up 73% of the economy. Traditional labor-intensive industries are steadily being moved off-shore and replaced with more capital- and technology-intensive industries[22] in the pre-mature stage of the manufacturing industry in the global economic competitions on labor cost (key performance indicator), automation (industry 4.0), product design realization (prototype), technology commercialization (innovation with knowledge/practical stickiness), scientific materialization (patent), scientific discovery (scientific findings from empirical scientific method), and growing from the over-reliance from the original equipment manufacturer and original design manufacturer models,[23][24] in which there is no single University from Taiwan entering Reuter's Global Top Innovative 100 University ranking,[25] and the economy of Taiwan may need international collaboration on University, Research and Industrial cooperation on spin-off opportunities. Economy of Taiwan is an indispensable partner in the Global Value Chains of Electronics Industry.[26] Electronic components and personal computer are two areas of international strength of Taiwan's Information Technology industry,[27] which means the economy of Taiwan has the competitive edge on having the learning curve from advanced foreign technologies with lower cost to be produced and sold abroad. Institute for Information Industry[28][29] with its international recognitions[30] is responsible for the development of IT industry and ICT industry[31] in Taiwan. Industrial Technology Research Institute[32] with its global partners[33] is the advanced research center for applied technology for the economy of Taiwan. Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics[34] and Ministry of Economic Affairs[35] release major economic indicators of the economy of Taiwan. Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research provides economic forecast at the forefront for the economy of Taiwan[36] and authoritatively researches on the bilateral economic relations with ASEAN by The Taiwan ASEAN Studies Center (TASC).[37][38] Taiwan Stock Exchange is the host to the listed companies of local industries in Taiwan with weighted financial exposures to the FTSE Taiwan Index and MSCI Taiwan Index.

International Trade is officially assisted by Taiwan External Trade Development Council.[39] Taiwanese investors and businesses have become major investors in mainland China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Because of the conservative and stable financial policy[40] by the Central Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the entrepreneurial strengths,[41] Taiwan suffered little from the financial crisis of 1997-1999 compared to many economies in the region. Two major banks in Taiwan are Bank of Taiwan and Mega International Commercial Bank, but financial industry is not the major international industry in Taiwan.[42] Unlike neighboring Japan and South Korea, small and medium-sized businesses make up a significant proportion of the businesses in Taiwan. Taiwan is characterized as one of the Newly industrialized economy in the wake of the Ten Major Construction Projects since the 1970s. Since the 1990s, the economy of Taiwan has adopted economic liberalization with the successive regulatory reforms.[43] London Metal Exchange, the largest metal stock exchange in the world, approved Kaohsiung, Taiwan as a good delivery point for primary aluminium, aluminium alloy, copper, lead, nickel, tin and zinc and as the LME's ninth location in Asia on 17 June 2013, for future contracts on metals and industrial production of the global integration of the economy of Taiwan.[44] The economy of Taiwan has the world's highest modern convenience store concentration density.[45] The Indirect tax system of the economy of Taiwan comprises Gross Business Receipts Tax (GBRT) (Gross receipts tax) and Value-added tax.[46] The economy of Taiwan is ranked 15th overall in the Global Top 20 Top Destination Cities by International Overnight Visitors (2014) by the MasterCard 2014 Global Destination Cities Index.[47] Bubble Tea originated in Taiwan.[48][49][50]

Taiwan is a member of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Taiwan is also an observer[51] at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) under the name of "Chinese Taipei",[52] and a member of International Chamber of Commerce as "Chinese Taipei".[53] Taiwan signed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with People's Republic of China on 29 June 2010. Taiwan also signed free trade pact with Singapore and New Zealand.[54][55] Taiwan applied for the membership in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015.[56] Taiwan's top five trade partners in 2010 are China, Japan, USA, the European Union, and Hong Kong.[57][58]

The economy of Taiwan, compared with other major economies in the region, is "at a crossroads",[59] and facing economic marginalization in the world economy,[60] in addition to de-internationalization, low-paid salary to employees and uncertain outlook for personal promotion of staff, which results in human resource talents seeking career opportunities elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, and businesses in Taiwan suffer most from being the size of small and medium enterprises only with weaker-than-expected revenue of its hectic business operation for any consideration of further expansion, and overall impedes any attempts at economic transformation of Taiwan from the Taiwanese government.[61] The World Trade Organization has also reviewed Chinese Taipei's economic outlook in 2010.[62] The international industrial forecast of semiconductor manufacturing, which is the flagship industry of the economy of Taiwan, that faces immense competition ahead with its American counterparts.[63][64] To conclude, facing the Market failure from Externality, the Taiwan government needs well-thought industrial policy[65][66][67] urgently to adapt to the new economic landscape, and as an island economy with lack of natural resources and comparatively lower domestic aggregate demand, Taiwan's highly educated human resources[68] would contribute greatly to Value added Innovation management[69][70][71][72] for expanding[73] Taiwan's international trade.

Accelerating the progress on addressing the world's lowest fertility rate and high housing prices is essential to avoid labor shortages, falling domestic demand, and declining tax revenues in the near run because the population decline is faster than in Hong Kong, People's Republic of China; the Republic of Korea (ROK); People's Republic of China; Singapore; and several advanced economies in the world.[74][75]


Taiwan has transformed itself from a recipient of U.S. aid in the 1950s and early 1960s to an aid donor and major foreign investor, with investments primarily centered in Asia. Private Taiwanese investment in mainland China is estimated to total in excess of US$150 billion,[76] and official tallies cite Taiwan as having invested a comparable amount in Southeast Asia.

Taiwan has historically benefited from the flight of many well-educated, wealthy Chinese to settle on the island: during early Qing Dynasty, the preceding Ming dynasty supporters survived for a brief period of time in exile in Taiwan, and in 1949, as the Chinese Communist Party gained control of mainland China, two million Kuomintang (KMT) supporters fled to the island.[77][78][79]

The first step towards industrialization was land reforms, a crucial step in modernizing the economy, as it created a class of landowners with capital they can invest in future economic endeavors. US aid was also important to stabilize post-war Taiwan, and it constituted more than 30 percent of domestic investment from 1951 to 1962. These factors, together with government planning and universal education, brought huge advancement in industry and agriculture, and living standards. The economy shifted from an agriculture-based economy (32% of GDP in 1952) to an industry-oriented economy (47% of GDP in 1986).[80] Between 1952 and 1961, the economy grew by an average of 9.21% each year.[80]

Once again, the transformation of Taiwan's economy cannot be understood without reference to the larger geopolitical framework. Although aid was cut back in the 1970s, it was crucial in the formative years, spurring industrialization and security and economic links were maintained. Uncertainty about the US commitment accelerated the country's shift from subsidized import-substitution in the 1950s to export-led growth. Development of foreign trade and exports helped absorb excess labor from the decreased importance of agriculture in the economy.[80] Like Korea, Taiwan moved from cheap, labor-intensive manufactures, such as textiles and toys, into an expansion of heavy industry and infrastructure in the 1970s, and then to advanced electronics in the subsequent decade. By the 1980s, the economy was becoming increasingly open and the government moved towards privatization of government enterprises.[80] Technological development led to the establishment of the Hsinchu Science Park in 1981. Investments in mainland China spurred cross-strait trade, decreasing Taiwan's dependence on the United States market.[80] From 1981–1995, the economy grew at an annual rate of 7.52%, and the service sector became the largest sector at 51.67%, surpassing the industrial sector and becoming a major source of the economy's growth.


The following table shows the main economic indicators in 1980–2017. Inflation below 2% is in green.[81]

Year GDP
(in Bil. US$ PPP)
GDP per capita
(in US$ PPP)
GDP growth
Inflation rate
(in Percent)
(in Percent)
Government debt
(in % of GDP)
1980 61.9 3,463 Increase8.0% Negative increase19.0% 1.2% n/a
1981 Increase72.5 Increase3,983 Increase7.1% Negative increase16.3% Negative increase1.4% n/a
1982 Increase80.6 Increase4,356 Increase4.8% Negative increase3.0% Negative increase2.1% n/a
1983 Increase91.4 Increase4,864 Increase9.0% Increase1.4% Negative increase2.7% n/a
1984 Increase104.2 Increase5,463 Increase10.0% Increase0.0% Positive decrease2.5% n/a
1985 Increase112.7 Increase5,834 Increase4.8% Positive decrease−0.2% Negative increase2.9% n/a
1986 Increase128.2 Increase6,570 Increase11.5% Increase0.7% Positive decrease2.7% n/a
1987 Increase148.1 Increase7,511 Increase12.7% Increase0.5% Positive decrease2.0% n/a
1988 Increase165.6 Increase8,300 Increase8.0% Increase1.3% Positive decrease1.7% n/a
1989 Increase187.1 Increase9,283 Increase8.7% Negative increase4.4% Positive decrease1.6% n/a
1990 Increase205.0 Increase10,048 Increase5.6% Negative increase4.1% Negative increase1.7% n/a
1991 Increase229.5 Increase11,139 Increase8.4% Negative increase3.6% Positive decrease1.5% n/a
1992 Increase254.2 Increase12,221 Increase8.3% Negative increase4.5% Steady1.5% n/a
1993 Increase278.0 Increase13,240 Increase6.8% Negative increase2.9% Steady1.5% n/a
1994 Increase305.2 Increase14,410 Increase7.5% Negative increase4.1% Negative increase1.6% n/a
1995 Increase331.8 Increase15,535 Increase6.5% Negative increase3.7% Negative increase1.8% n/a
1996 Increase358.7 Increase16,664 Increase6.2% Negative increase3.1% Negative increase2.6% n/a
1997 Increase387.2 Increase17,806 Increase6.1% Increase0.9% Negative increase2.7% 24.9%
1998 Increase407.5 Increase18,598 Increase4.2% Increase1.7% Steady2.7% Positive decrease23.6%
1999 Increase441.9 Increase20,002 Increase6.7% Increase0.2% Negative increase2.9% Negative increase23.7%
2000 Increase481.0 Increase21,590 Increase6.4% Increase1.2% Negative increase3.0% Negative increase26.2%
2001 Increase485.7 Increase21,679 Decrease−1.3% Increase0.0% Negative increase4.6% Negative increase30.0%
2002 Increase520.7 Increase23,119 Increase5.6% Positive decrease−0.2% Negative increase5.2% Positive decrease29.6%
2003 Increase552.9 Increase24,462 Increase4.1% Positive decrease−0.3% Positive decrease5.0% Negative increase32.0%
2004 Increase605.1 Increase26,670 Increase6.5% Increase1.6% Positive decrease4.4% Negative increase33.3%
2005 Increase658.4 Increase28,915 Increase5.4% Negative increase2.3% Positive decrease4.1% Negative increase33.9%
2006 Increase716.8 Increase31,333 Increase5.6% Increase0.6% Positive decrease3.9% Positive decrease33.1%
2007 Increase783.8 Increase34,141 Increase6.5% Increase1.8% Steady3.9% Positive decrease32.1%
2008 Increase804.8 Increase34,936 Increase0.7% Negative increase3.5% Negative increase4.1% Negative increase33.3%
2009 Decrease798.2 Decrease34,526 Decrease−1.6% Positive decrease−0.3% Negative increase5.9% Negative increase36.6%
2010 Increase893.9 Increase38,593 Increase10.6% Increase1.0% Positive decrease5.2% Negative increase36.7%
2011 Increase947.1 Increase40,777 Increase3.8% Increase1.4% Positive decrease4.4% Negative increase38.2%
2012 Increase984.4 Increase42,220 Increase2.1% Increase1.9% Positive decrease4.2% Negative increase39.2%
2013 Increase1,022.3 Increase43,739 Increase2.2% Increase0.8% Steady4.2% Positive decrease39.0%
2014 Increase1,082.5 Increase46,195 Increase4.0% Increase1.2% Positive decrease4.0% Positive decrease37.8%
2015 Increase1,103.1 Increase46,956 Increase0.8% Positive decrease−0.3% Positive decrease3.8% Positive decrease36.6%
2016 Increase1,132.9 Increase48,128 Increase1.4% Increase1.4% Negative increase3.9% Positive decrease36.2%
2017 Increase1,192.5 Increase50,593 Increase3.1% Positive decrease1.1% Positive decrease3.8% Positive decrease35.5%
2018 Increase1,251.5 Increase53,023 Increase2.6% Increase1.5% Positive decrease3.7% Positive decrease35.0%
2019(est.) Increase1,300.2 Increase55,078 Increase2.0% Increase0.8% Negative increase3.8% Positive decrease33.6%


Taiwanese economic performance by year[82][83]
Year Economic growth (%) -- GDP per capita (USD) Growth (%)
1951 - -- 154 -
1952 12.00 -- 208 35.06
1953 9.49 -- 178 -14.42
1954 9.64 -- 188 5.62
1955 7.72 -- 216 14.89
1956 6.17 -- 151 -30.09
1957 7.81 -- 170 12.58
1958 7.68 -- 185 8.82
1959 8.81 -- 140 -24.32
1960 7.20 -- 163 16.43
1961 7.05 -- 161 -1.23
1962 8.93 -- 172 6.83
1963 10.74 -- 189 9.88
1964 12.63 -- 214 13.23
1965 11.89 -- 229 7.01
1966 9.63 -- 249 8.73
1967 11.15 -- 281 12.85
1968 9.71 -- 319 13.52
1969 9.59 -- 357 11.91
1970 11.51 -- 397 11.20
1971 13.43 -- 451 13.60
1972 13.87 -- 530 17.52
1973 12.83 -- 706 33.21
1974 2.67 -- 934 32.29
1975 6.19 -- 985 5.46
1976 14.28 -- 1,158 17.56
1977 11.41 -- 1,330 14.85
1978 13.56 -- 1,606 20.75
1979 8.83 -- 1,950 21.42
1980 8.04 -- 2,389 22.51
1981 7.10 -- 2,720 13.86
1982 4.81 -- 2,699 -0.77
1983 9.02 -- 2,903 7.56
1984 10.05 -- 3,224 11.06
1985 4.81 -- 3,314 2.79
1986 11.51 -- 4,036 21.79
1987 12.75 -- 5,350 32.56
1988 8.02 -- 6,370 19.07
1989 8.72 -- 7,613 19.51
1990 5.54 -- 8,205 7.78
1991 8.37 -- 9,125 11.21
1992 8.31 -- 10,768 18.01
1993 6.81 -- 11,242 4.40
1994 7.50 -- 12,150 8.08
1995 6.50 -- 13,119 7.98
1996 6.18 -- 13,641 3.98
1997 6.05 -- 14,020 2.78
1998 4.20 -- 12,820 -8.56
1999 6.73 -- 13,804 7.68
2000 6.31 -- 14,908 8.00
2001 -1.40 -- 13,397 -10.14
2002 5.48 -- 13,686 2.16
2003 4.22 -- 14,066 2.78
2004 6.95 -- 15,317 8.89
2005 5.38 -- 16,456 7.44
2006 5.77 -- 16,934 2.90
2007 6.85 -- 17,757 4.86
2008 0.80 -- 18,081 1.82
2009 -1.61 -- 16,933 -6.35
2010 10.25 -- 19,197 13.37
2011 3.67 -- 20,866 8.69
2012 2.22 -- 21,295 2.06
2013 2.48 -- 21,973 3.18
2014 4.72 -- 22,874 4.10
2015 1.47 -- 22,780 -0.41
2016 2.17 -- 23,091 1.37
2017 3.31 -- 25,080 8.61
2018 2.75 -- 25,792 2.84
2019 2.71 -- 25,909 0.45

Economy by region[edit]

Annual median household income in Taiwan by township/city or district in 2016
List of cities and counties in Republic of China (Taiwan) by GDP per capita in 2016[84]
Rank cities NTD US$ PPP
1 Taipei 990,292 30,699 65,539
2 Hsinchu City 853,089 26,446 56,459
- Taipei-Keelung metropolitan area 830,788 25,754 54,982
- Taipei-Keelung-Taoyuan metropolitan area 807,860 25,044 53,465
4 New Taipei 733,776 22,747 48,562
5 Taoyuan 731,518 22,677 48,413
- Taiwan 727,098 22,540 48,120
6 Taichung 724,905 22,472 47,975
7 Hsinchu County 724,840 22,470 47,971
8 Penghu County 709,066 21,981 46,927
9 Chiayi City 709,033 21,980 46,925
10 Keelung 706,808 21,911 46,777
11 Yilan County 700,034 21,701 46,329
12 Hualien County 693,292 21,492 45,883
13 Kaohsiung 684,260 21,212 45,285
14 Kinmen County 668,582 20,726 44,248
15 Miaoli County 657,292 20,376 43,500
16 Tainan 643,743 19,956 42,604
17 Taitung County 623,485 19,328 41,263
18 Changhua County 618,969 19,188 40,964
19 Yunlin County 607,776 18,841 40,223
20 Pingtung County 592,066 18,354 39,184
21 Nantou County 569,453 17,653 37,687
22 Chiayi County 562,743 17,445 37,243

Economic outlook[edit]

Taiwan now faces many of the same economic issues as other developed economies. With the prospect of continued relocation of labor-intensive industries to economies with cheaper work forces, such as in mainland China and Vietnam, Taiwan's future development will have to rely on further transformation to a high technology and service-oriented economy.[85] In recent years, Taiwan has successfully diversified its trade markets, cutting its share of exports to the United States from 49% in 1984 to 20% in 2002. Taiwan's dependence on the United States should continue to decrease as its exports to Southeast Asia and mainland China grow and its efforts to develop European markets produce results.[86] Taiwan's accession to the WTO and its desire to become an Asia-Pacific "regional operations center" are spurring further economic liberalization.

Global financial crisis[edit]

Taiwan recovered quickly from the global financial crisis of 2007–2010, and its economy has been growing steadily since. Its economy faced a downturn in 2009 due to a heavy reliance on exports which in turn made it vulnerable to world markets.[86] Unemployment reached levels not seen since 2003, and the economy fell 8.36% in the fourth quarter of 2008.[85] In response, the government launched a US$5.6 billion economic stimulus package (3% of its GDP), provided financial incentives for businesses, and introduced tax breaks.[85] The stimulus package focused on infrastructure development, small and medium-sized businesses, tax breaks for new investments, and low-income households.[85] Boosting shipments to new overseas markets, such as Russia, Brazil, and the Middle East was also a main goal of the stimulus.[85] The economy has since slowly recovered; by November 2010, Taiwan's unemployment rate had fallen to a two-year low of 4.73%,[87] and continued dropping to a 40-month low of 4.18% by the end of 2011.[88] The average salary has also been rising steadily for each month in 2010, up 1.92% from the same period in 2009.[89] Industrial output for November 2010 reached another high, up 19.37% from a year earlier, indicating strong exports and a growing local economy.[90] Private consumption is also increasing, with retail sales up 6.4% compared to 2009.[91] After 10.5% economic growth in 2010, the World Bank expected growth to continue and reach 5% for 2011.[92]

According to the National Development Council, Taiwan's economy declined in May 2019 due to the ongoing China-United States trade war.[93]

Foreign trade[edit]

Computex Taipei, the second-largest technology trade show in the world,[94] is a global IT exhibition which attracts many foreign investors.[95]

Foreign trade has been the engine of Taiwan's rapid growth during the past 40 years. Taiwan's economy remains export-oriented, thus it depends on an open world trade regime and remains vulnerable to downturns in the world economy. The total value of trade increased over fivefold in the 1960s, nearly tenfold in the 1970s, and doubled again in the 1980s.[96] The 1990s saw a more modest, slightly less than twofold, growth. Export composition changed from predominantly agricultural commodities to industrial goods (now 98%). The electronics sector is Taiwan's most important industrial export sector and is the largest recipient of United States investment.

Taiwan, as an independent economy, became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (often shortened to "Chinese Taipei"-both names resulting from PRC interference on the WTO) in January 2002. In a 2011 report by Business Environment Risk Intelligence (BERI), Taiwan ranked third-best globally for its investment environment.[97]

Taiwan is the world's largest supplier of contract computer chip manufacturing (foundry services) and is a leading LCD panel manufacturer,[98] DRAM computer memory, networking equipment, and consumer electronics designer and manufacturer.[86] Major hardware companies include Acer, Asus, HTC, Foxconn, TSMC and Pegatron. Textiles are another major industrial export sector, though of declining importance due to labor shortages, increasing overhead costs, land prices, and environmental protection.[99]

Imports are dominated by raw materials and capital goods, which account for more than 90% of the total. Taiwan imports most of its energy needs. The United States is Taiwan's third largest trading partner, taking 11.4% of Taiwanese exports and supplying 10.0% of its imports.[57][58] Mainland China has recently become Taiwan's largest import and export partner. In 2010, the mainland accounted for 28.0% of Taiwan's exports and 13.2% of imports.[57][58] This figure is growing rapidly as both economies become ever more interdependent. Imports from mainland China consist mostly of agricultural and industrial raw materials. Exports to the United States are mainly electronics and consumer goods. As Taiwanese per capita income level has risen, demand for imported, high-quality consumer goods has increased. Taiwan's 2002 trade surplus with the United States was $8.70 billion.

The lack of formal diplomatic relations between the Republic of China (Taiwan) with Taiwan's trading partners appears not to have seriously hindered Taiwan's rapidly expanding commerce. The Republic of China maintains cultural and trade offices in more than 60 countries with which it does not have official relations to represent Taiwanese interest. In addition to the WTO, Taiwan is a member of the Asian Development Bank as "Taipei, China" (a name resulting from PRC influence on the bank) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum as "Chinese Taipei" (for the same reason as above). These developments reflect Taiwan's economic importance and its desire to become further integrated into the global economy.

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with the People's Republic of China was signed on 29 June 2010, in Chongqing.[100][101] It could potentially widen the market for Taiwan's exports. However, the true benefits and impacts brought by ECFA to Taiwan's overall economy are still in dispute.[102] The newly signed agreement will allow for more than 500 products made in Taiwan to enter mainland China at low or no tariffs.[103] The government is also looking to establish trade agreements with Singapore[104] and the United States.[105]


Skyline of modern skyscrapers in Xinyi Special District, Taipei.
Kaohsiung skyline.
Taichung CBD

Industrial output has gradually decreased from accounting for over half of Taiwan's GDP in 1986 to just 31% in 2002.[99] Industries have gradually moved to capital and technology-intensive industries from more labor-intensive industries, with electronics and information technology accounting for 35% of the industrial structure.[99] Industry in Taiwan primarily consists of many small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) with fewer large enterprises.

The "e-Taiwan" project launched by the government seeks to use US$1.83 billion to improve the information and communications infrastructure in Taiwan in five major areas: government, life, business, transport, and broadband.[106][107] The program seeks to raise industry competitiveness, improve government efficiency, and improve the quality of life, and aims to increase the number of broadband users on the island to 6 million.[107] In 2010, Taiwan's software market grew by 7.1% to reach a value of US$4 billion, accounting for 3.3% of the Asia-Pacific region market value. The digital content production industry grew by 15% in 2009, reaching US$14.03 billion.[106] The optoelectronics industry (including flat panel displays and photovoltaics) totaled NT$2.2 trillion in 2010, a 40% jump from 2009, representing a fifth of the global market share.[108]

Semiconductor industry[edit]

The semiconductor industry, including IC manufacturing, design, and packing, forms a major part of Taiwan's IT industry.[109] Due to its strong capabilities in OEM wafer manufacturing and a complete industry supply chain, Taiwan has been able to distinguish itself from its competitors.[109][110] The sector output reached US$39 billion in 2009, ranking first in global market share in IC manufacturing, packaging, and testing, and second in IC design.[111] Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) are the two largest contract chipmakers in the world,[112] while MediaTek is the fourth-largest fabless supplier globally.[113] In 1987, TSMC pioneered the fabless foundry model, reshaping the global semiconductor industry.[111][114] From ITRI's first 3-inch wafer fabrication plant built in 1977[111] and the founding of UMC in 1980,[115] the industry has developed into a world leader with 40 fabs in operation by 2002.[109] In 2007, the semiconductor industry overtook that of the United States, second only to Japan.[116] Although the global financial crisis from 2007 to 2010 affected sales and exports,[117] the industry has rebounded with companies posting record profits for 2010.[118][119] Taiwan has the largest share of 300 nm, 90 nm, and 60 nm manufacturing capacities worldwide, and was expected to pass Japan in total IC fab capacity by mid-2011.[120][121]

Information technology[edit]

A TSMC factory in Tainan Science Park, one of the many companies that make up Taiwan's IT industry

Taiwan's information technology industry has played an important role in the worldwide IT market over the last 20 years.[99] In 1960, the electronics industry in Taiwan was virtually nonexistent.[122] However, with the government's focus on development of expertise with high technology, along with marketing and management knowledge to establish its own industries, companies such as TSMC and UMC were established.[123] The industry used its industrial resources and product management experience to cooperate closely with major international suppliers to become the research and development hub of the Asia-Pacific region.[99] The structure of the industry in Taiwan includes a handful of companies at the top along with many small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) which account for 85% of industrial output.[99] These SMEs usually produce products on an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or original design manufacturer (ODM) basis, resulting in less resources spent on research and development.[99] Due to the emphasis of the OEM/ODM model, companies are usually unable to make in-depth assessments for investment, production, and marketing of new products, instead relying upon importation of key components and advanced technology from the United States and Japan.[99] Twenty of the top information and communication technology (ICT) companies have International Procurement Offices set up in Taiwan.[106] As a signer of the Information Technology Agreement,[124] Taiwan phased out tariffs on IT products since 1 January 2002.[106]

Taiwan has a growing Startup sector.[125][126]

Taiwan is a hub for global computing, telecommunications, and data management with a number of large server farms operating in the country. Google’s data center in Changhua is believed to be the largest in Asia. Taiwan is well connected to the global undersea fiber optic cable network and serves as a substantial traffic interchange.[127]


A tea plantation in Ruisui, Hualien, part of Taiwan's agricultural industry which served as the backbone for its economic miracle

Agriculture has served as a strong foundation for Taiwan's economic miracle.[128] After retrocession from Japan in 1945, the government announced a long-term strategy of "developing industry through agriculture, and developing agriculture through industry".[129] As such, agriculture became the foundation for Taiwan's economic development during early years and served as an anchor for growth in industry and commerce. Where as in 1951 agricultural production accounted for 35.8% of Taiwan's GDP,[129] by 2013 it had been vastly surpassed and its NT$475.90 billion accounted for only 1.69% of the GDP. As of 2013, Taiwan's agriculture was a mixture of crops (47.88%), livestock (31.16%), fishery (20.87%) and forestry (0.09%).[130] Since its accession into the World Trade Organization and the subsequent trade liberalization, the government has implemented new policies to develop the sector into a more competitive and modernized green industry.[131]

Although only about one-quarter of Taiwan's land area is suitable for farming, virtually all farmland is intensely cultivated, with some areas suitable for two and even three crops a year. However, increases in agricultural production have been much slower than industrial growth. Agricultural modernization has been inhibited by the small size of farms and the lack of investment in better facilities and training to develop more profitable businesses.[131] Taiwan's agricultural population has steadily decreased from 1974 to 2002, prompting the Council of Agriculture to introduce modern farm management, provide technical training, and offer counseling for better production and distribution systems.[131] Promotion of farm mechanization has helped to alleviate labor shortages while increasing productivity; both rice and sugar cane production are completely mechanized.[132] Taiwan's main crops are rice, sugar cane, fruits (many of them tropical), and vegetables. Although self-sufficient in rice production, Taiwan imports large amounts of wheat, mostly from the United States. Meat production and consumption has risen sharply, reflecting a high standard of living. Taiwan has exported large amounts of frozen pork, although this was affected by an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in 1997. Other agricultural exports include fish, aquaculture and sea products, canned and frozen vegetables, and grain products. Imports of agriculture products are expected to increase due to the WTO accession, which is opening previously protected agricultural markets.


Wind turbines, such as these in Qingshui, Taichung, are part of the government's efforts in renewable energy commercialisation

Due to the lack of natural resources on the island, Taiwan is forced to import many of its energy needs (currently at 98%).[133] Imported energy totaled US$11.52 billion in 2002, accounting for 4.1% of its GDP.[134] Although the industrial sector has traditionally been Taiwan's largest energy consumer, its share has dropped in recent years from 62% in 1986 to 58% in 2002.[134] Taiwan's energy consumption is dominated by crude oil & petroleum products (48.52%), followed by coal (29.2%), natural gas (12.23%), nuclear power (8.33%), and hydroelectric power (0.28%).[135] The island is also heavily dependent on imported oil, with 72% of its crude oil coming from the Middle East in 2002. Although the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower), state-owned enterprise, is in charge of providing electricity for the Taiwan area, a 1994 measure has allowed independent power producers (IPPs) to provide up to 20% of the island's energy needs.[136] Indonesia and Malaysia supply most of Taiwan's natural gas needs.[136] It currently has three operational nuclear power plants. A fourth plant under construction was mothballed in 2014.[137]

Although Taiwan's per capita energy use is on par with neighboring Asian countries,[138] in July 2005 the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced plans to cut 170 million-tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2025.[136] In 2010, carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced by 5.14 million metric tons.[139] In order to further reduce emissions, the government also plans to increase energy efficiency by 2% each year through 2020.[140] In addition, by 2015 emissions are planned to be reduced by 7% compared to 2005 levels.[140]

Taiwan is the world's 4th largest producer of solar-powered batteries and largest LED manufacturer by volume.[139] In 2010, Taiwan had over 1.66 million square meters of solar heat collectors installed, with an installation density that ranks it as third in the world.[141] The government has already built 155 sets of wind turbines capable of producing 281.6 MW of energy, and additional projects are planned or under construction.[142] Renewable energy accounts for 6.8% of Taiwan's energy usage as of 2010.[140] In 2010, the green energy sector generated US$10.97 billion in production value.[139] The government also announced plans to invest US$838 million for renewable energy promotion and an additional US$635 million for research and development.[140]

Steel and heavy manufacturing[edit]

Taiwan, as of 2017, is the world's thirteenth-largest steel exporter. In 2018, Taiwan exported 12.2 million metric tons of steel, a one percent increase from 12.0 million metric tons in 2017. Taiwan's exports represented about 3 percent of all steel exported globally in 2017, based on available data. The volume of Taiwan's 2018 steel exports was one-sixth that of the world's largest exporter, China, and nearly one-third that of the second-largest exporter, Japan. In value terms, steel represented just 3.6 percent of the total amount of goods Taiwan exported in 2018. Taiwan exports steel to more than 130 countries and territories. Over the decade from 2009-2019, Taiwan grew its steel exports by 24%. In 2018, the US imported 300,000 metric tons of pipe and tube product. Taiwan has developed a vast export trade to its most proximate neighbours in flat products. Taiwan's stainless steel exports numbered in 2018 about 500,000 metric tons.[143]

Maritime industries[edit]

In 2017 Taiwan exported one hundred and sixty two yachts.[144] In 2018 Taiwan was the fourth largest yacht building nation by feet of yacht built after Italy, The Netherlands and Turkey.[145] Taiwan is one of the largest fishing nations on earth and the associated fish processing industry is also significant.[146]

Largest companies[edit]

According to the 2019 Forbes Global 2000 index, Taiwan's largest publicly traded companies are:

Forbes Global 2000[147]
Rank Company Revenues
($ billion)
($ billion)
($ billion)
Market value
($ billion)
1 Hon Hai Precision 175.6 4.3 110 41.2
2 TSMC 34.2 11.6 68 222.4
3 Cathay Financial 3.5 0.1 73.0 4.1
4 Fubon Financial 21.9 1.6 250.6 14.9
5 CTBC Financial 16.7 1.2 187.2 12.8
6 Formosa Petrochemical 25.5 2 13.2 35.4
7 Formosa Chemicals 13.5 1.6 19.2 20.6
8 Nan Ya Plastics 11 1.7 18.6 19.9
9 Formosa Plastics 7.6 1.6 13.2 35.4
10 Formosa Petrochemical 25.5 2 16.3 22.3
11 China Steel 13.3 0.8 21.9 12.6
12 Chunghwa Telecom 7.1 1.2 15.2 27.7
13 Mega Financial Holding 3.2 0.9 115.2 12.4
14 ASE Group 12.3 0.8 17.4 10.2
15 Quanta Computer 34.1 0.5 21.5 7.6
16 Uni-President 14.3 0.6 13.2 13.1

Labor policy[edit]

Union policies[edit]

The Labor Union Laws, legislated by the Kuomintang (KMT) on the mainland, gave Taiwan workers the right to unionize. However, prior to the democratization of Taiwan, the functions of unions were limited under strict regulation and state corporatism.[148] Under the Labor Union Laws, workers were only allowed to be organized at the companies, which means industry level unions were forbidden. Also, only one union can exist within each company or geographical area.[148] Special occupational groups such as teachers were not allowed to unionize.[149] The right to strike and collective bargaining were also hamstrung by law.[150] The Collective Bargaining Agreement in 1930 stipulated that collective bargains were not legally valid without government approval.[150] The democratization in 1986 brought dramatic changes to union participation and policies. Between 1986 and 1992, unionized workers increased by 13%.[150] A number of autonomous, non-official trade unions emerged, including the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU) which acquired legal recognition in 2000.[150] The amendments to the Labor Union Laws and Collective Bargaining Agreement both became effective in the early 21st century. The amended Labor Union Law lifted the limitations on special occupational groups from collective representation.[149] The Collective Bargaining Agreement Act in 2008 guaranteed trade unions the power to negotiate with employers.[150]

Employment Protection[edit]

Taiwan's labor rights and employment protections increased with its democratization progress in the 1980s, and it still has relatively high level of employment protection comparing to other East Asia countries.[151] Implemented in August 1984, Labor Standards Law was the first comprehensive employment protection law for Taiwan workers.[152] Prior to its implementation, the Factory Act was the primary law governing labor affairs, but was ineffective in practice because of its narrow coverage of businesses and issues and absence of penalties for violation.[152] In contrast, Labor Standards Law covered a broader range of businesses and labor affairs, and detailed penalties for its violation. It regulated a period of notice before firing employees, and also required a higher level of severance payment.[152] Other labor issues were also regulated by the law, including contract, wage, overtime payment, compensations for occupational accidents, etc.[153] Penalties for employer violation were also clear in the law, stating fines and criminal liabilities.[152] Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) was set up on 1 August 1987 to help with labor inspection and the enforcement of the Labor Standards Law.[153]

Active Labor Market Policies[edit]

Active labor market policies were carried out in Taiwan in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as a result of economic structural changes caused by globalization and deindustrialization.[154] Unemployment increased and reached approximately 5% in 2002 and 2009.[154] A set of policies were adopted to help the unemployed and provide jobs. The Employment Insurance Act in 2002 grants income security during unemployment, but at the same time requires beneficiaries to use all available resources to find jobs.[155] The Multi-Faceted Job Creation Program, first introduced in 1999, creates job in the third sector groups, especially in nonprofit organizations.[154] It subsidizes those companies to provide vocational trainings and job opportunities.[156] The Public Sector Temporary Employment Creation Program directly addressed the 2008 financial crisis. Unlike the Multi-Faceted Job Creation Programs, the Public Sector Temporary Employment Creation Program creates jobs in the government itself. From 2008 to 2009, the government was estimated to create 102,000 job opportunities by that program.[150] A job creation project was also implemented to help young people by subsidizing the hiring of young people in universities and private companies.[156]

Working Hours[edit]

Taiwan's GDP per capita in December 1984 was below US$5,000 before reaching US$25,026 by December 2018, an all-time high.[157] On 30 July 1984, Taiwan implemented an eighty-six article Labor Standards Act under Presidential Order No.14069.[158] The act defined the standard work week as 40 labor hours with an eight-hour limit per day, permitting an overtime-included maximum of forty-eight labor hours per week.[148]

Article 25 of the Labor Standards Act upholds there will be no sexual discrimination in the conditions of workers,[158] however, because the Taiwanese culture and thus political economy traditionally "categorizes female employees as naturally marriage- and family-oriented," women are assumed to obtain employment in fields that are limited to these ideals.[159] As a result of feminist ideals becoming more prevalent with women seeking equal work conditions in modern societies such as Taiwan, even marital status policy and immigration policy have been affected as women seek less patriarchal roles to the point where Taiwanese men have sought higher rates of transnational marriages since the 1990s.[160]

Science and industrial parks[edit]

Hsinchu Science Park is home to many of Taiwan's IT companies
Taipei Neihu Technology Park

In order to promote industrial research and development, the government began establishing science parks, economic zones which provide rent and utility breaks, tax incentives and specialized lending rates to attract investment.[161] The first of these, the Hsinchu Science Park was established in 1980 by the National Science Council[162] with a focus on research and development in information technology and biotechnology.[161][163] It has been called Taiwan's "Silicon Valley"[164][165] and has expanded to six campuses covering an area of 1,140 hectares (11.4 km2).[166] Over 430 companies (including many listed on TAIEX) employing over 130,000 people are located within the park, and paid in capital totaled US$36.10 billion in 2008.[167] Both Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and United Microelectronics Corporation, the world's largest and second largest contract chipmakers,[112] are headquartered within the park. Since 1980, the government has invested over US$1 billion in the park's infrastructure,[163] and further expansion for more specialized parks have been pursued.[167] The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), headquartered within the park, is the largest nonprofit research organization in Taiwan and has worked to develop applied technological research for industry, including for many of Taiwan's traditional industries (such as textiles).[163]

Following the success of the first park, the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP), consisting of the Tainan Science Park and the Kaohsiung Science Park, was established in 1996.[161] In addition to companies, several research institutes (including Academia Sinica) and universities have set up branches within the park with a focus on integrated circuits (ICs), optoelectronics, and biotechnology.[167] The Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP) was established more recently in 2003.[168] While the CTSP is still under development, many firms (including AU Optronics) have already moved into the park and begun manufacturing operations.[168] Like the other parks, CTSP also focuses on ICs, optoelectronics, and biotechnology, with the optoelectronics industry accounting for 78% of its revenue in 2008.[167] These three science parks alone have attracted over NT$4 trillion (US$137 billion) worth of capital inflow,[163] and in 2010 total revenue within the parks reached NT$2.16 trillion (US$72.8 billion).[169]

The Linhai Industrial Park, established in Kaohsiung in 1960,[170] is a well-developed industrial zone with over 490 companies focusing on other industries including base metals, machinery and repairs, nonmetallic mineral products, chemical products, and food and beverage manufacturing.[171] The Changhua Coastal Industrial Park, located in Changhua County, is a newer industrial cluster with many different industries such as food production, glass, textiles, and plastics.[172]

The complete lists of industrial and science parks in Taiwan are:

Economic research institutes[edit]

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  1. ^ data for central government

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]