This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Changing Status of Women in Taiwan: 1945-2010


This dissertation analyzes the economic, social, and political status of women in Taiwan from 1945 to 2010. This research was guided by a theoretical model of how the status of women worldwide is influenced by the extent of patriarchal culture, the level of economic development, and the degree of democratization. Hypotheses drawn from the theoretical model were tested by using data collected from 174 developing and developed nations. Overall, the statistical analysis found that patriarchal culture, economic development, and democratization exert fairly strong influences over some dimensions of women’s status but have little association with others. This implies that the nature of women’s status is complex and complicated because each nation has its own circumstances that are shaped by its historical background, traditional culture, geographic location, and so on. Therefore case studies of individual countries should provide valuable insights into the dynamics of women’s changing status in the contemporary world. This dissertation presents such a case study that analyzes the status of Taiwanese women in terms of social conditions, human and social capital, economic activities, and political participation and power. Although women made major progress in all four areas, significant problems and barriers remain. In terms of social conditions, Taiwanese women made substantial gains and reached developed world status by the 21st century on life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality, and fertility. However, Taiwan’s sex birth ratios give strong evidence of selective female abortions after the second child, indicating the continued existence of patriarchal norms. During the postwar era, there have been tremendous increases in women’s educational levels and literacy; and the pre-existing gender gap on these dimensions has vanished among younger Taiwanese. In addition, women are now more active than men in voluntary organizations. However, substantial sex segregation in higher education majors still remains; and the less educated women from previous generations are at a substantial disadvantage in the country’s modernized economy and society. Over time women’s participation in the labor force has increased greatly, but it still is not high by international standards. In addition, there was a major jump in occupational segregation between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, which probably hurt women’s relative status. In contrast, women’s average wages and salaries have risen to approximately 80 per cent of men, far from equal but approximately the level that exists in the United States. Women and men now vote at equal rates, although women remain substantially underrepresented in terms of office-holding. Over the postwar period, women’s representation in legislatures and councils increased gradually to 20 per cent to 30 per cent over the last two decades, although their share of the elective chief executives of local governments is much lower. There were few women in the national cabinet before 2000, but since then they have held 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the ministerial posts; and women’s share of the civil service has increased markedly over the last two decades to nearly 40 per cent. By international standards, this is fairly respectable. The experience of women in Taiwan since the end of World War II, consequently, offers hope to women in other developing nations. Their living conditions have improved greatly; and they are approaching parity with men on many dimensions. While certain types of inequality certainly remain, more progress in the future appears highly likely.