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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Demographic transition: its effects on women’s liberation in Taiwan Ma, Serena Wai Lan


In this thesis, liberation for women will be defined within the boundaries of the demographic transition in Taiwan. Historically, the Taiwanese family was patriarchal, patrilineal and patrilocal, suggesting that women were inferior in status. Their responsibilities were limited to domestic duties and childcare. However, the onset of industrialization created the basis for fertility decline. It introduced incentives for regulating fertility and thus, changed the structure of the historical Chinese family as well as the status of women. In the Taiwanese case, industrialization established employment opportunities for young men and women, allowing them to delay marriage. Postponing marriage had important demographic effects because it meant that childbearing was delayed and consequently, fertility rates declined. The introduction of family planning also contributed to the decrease in fertility rates. Worried that overpopulation would impede industrialization, the state implemented family planning programs in Taiwan with a high degree of success. For women, having fewer children or spacing births, meant the freedom to pursue interests which otherwise, would be used for childcare. Therefore, fertility decline has a direct impact on women's autonomy. The extent that this applies to the Taiwanese case will be examined. The status of Taiwanese women is assessed using both quantitative and qualitative evidence. It involves comparing government implemented statistics and surveys on various areas of interest concerning men and women in Taiwan. Since data collected by the Taiwanese state is published on a regular basis, government census is used. However, this does not exclude other sources, such as data collected and surveys carried out by independent scholars. In addition to statistics, case studies are used as part of the research design. Findings reveal that women are able to pursue personal interests, such as acquiring higher levels of education,' concentrating on jobs and careers and enjoying different recreational activities. However, their freedom to realize individual potential and capabilities is challenged by those who deter women from recognizing their capacities. Women encounter anatagonism at the workplace, in law and politics. Although this is the case, they do not accept it as their fate. Organized collectively in women's associations, they contest restrictions placed on their freedom. In addition, feminist works which promote the changing status of women, highlight new ideas and address social issues, also confront women's plight. Thus, although women are not fully liberated, they gradually making progress to ensure that autonomy will be the final outcome.

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