Monday, July 17, 2006

Republic of Corruption

This cartoon was stolen from

A few weeks back I read in the Taipei Times that Taiwan’s volunteer rate has been climbing for the past few years. Last year 64, 000 people volunteered for an average of 3.2 hours per week. I was a bit surprised because I have never met a Taiwanese person who volunteers and haven’t found Taiwanese people to be very altruistic or giving especially to strangers. To be fair this may be a taboo subject or something that would never come up in ordinary conversation. The Times said:
Since the Volunteer Service Law (志願服務法) was promulgated in January 2001, the governments of all special municipalities, cities and counties around the country have been required to form social welfare volunteer service corps.

At the end of last year, ministry officials said, there were 1,169 volunteer service corps, up 17.1 percent from a year before.
This section piqued my curiosity, as it seems to indicate that the rise in volunteerism is more the result of the Volunteer Service Law and not in any change in attitudes. I also thought that 64, 000 people sure is a lot of people to be volunteering. Then I broke out the calculator and quickly realized that my earlier skepticism was accurate. According to the CIA Fact Book, Taiwan has over 16 million people between the ages of 15-64. Unless my math is wrong that would show a volunteer rate of 0.4%. Now that is a number that will make every Taiwanese person proud.

To put Taiwan's numbers it in perspective my hometown of Calgary has a 37% volunteer rate with people giving about 10 per hours per month. This works out to 350 000 volunteers in a city of 950 000 people. It is also important to note that Calgary is lower than the Canadian average. I am not sure why only 64 000 people volunteer in Taiwan but believe it is probably because there isn’t much of a civic culture in Taiwan and people only really care about money. I am sure some Taiwanese people will pull the culture card. the Taiwanese culture card is usually played as an explanation given by locals when asked the reasons behind inexplicable facts about their country.

I have illegally volunteered a number of times since living in Taiwan; 921 relief and Children’s Day events. Now that I have a wife and kid I am really not that willing to illegally volunteer. I would love to volunteer more but believe that I need some kind of work visa to do so legally. If this is truly the case, I will probably respect the local culture and do like the locals and not volunteer.

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Mark S. said...

If you're married to a local you have open work privileges, which means that volunteering wouldn't be working illegally.

For more info, check Forumosa's volunteering in Taiwan forum.

I've tried a few times to volunteer to clean up the English and romanization on public signage. But no one seems interested:
"Deer Mrak: thank you fr you're offre to help, butt all our sines are apProved buy our speshul committy...."
(OK, maybe not that bad. But the message is still the same.)

BigEll said...

Thanks Mark I wil check out the forum. I have looked a few other times but usually get confused. Your comment about volunteering to help his priceless and a bit sad.

Taiwanese said...

I think there're definitely more than 64,000 volunteers in Taiwan. Let's simply take TzuChi Fundation for example, their volunteers exceeds hundred thousands is a well-known fact.
Most Taiwanese don't like to talk about if they're volunteering. It's against the culture - people believe to volunteer gains them "good carma", to talk about is believing showing off and results offseting the good carma. That's why we have a famous saying "為善不欲人知".
I look around the people that I know, my best friend's mom is a volunteer at TzuZi fundation for more than 10years and so are a lot of people that I know; a friend went to Sri Lanka to volunteer for 6months already and my own father, he was a volunteered firefighter all his life, now that he's getting old, he chose to volunteer at a hospital.
Community service is not popular here, people help others, wherever and whenever they feel like to and usually at rural areas.
Again, people don't like to talk about volunteering so you can only find out if you're really close to them. We Taiwanese are conservative, remember?
As myself, I'm not allowed to talk about where or what I volunteer, it's against our culture! :P

p.s. to Mr. Mark....not all the Taiwanese speak poor English, so you shouldn't feel too bad. But then again, why should we speak perfect English?? We're in our country afterall! Duh!

BigEll said...

Now that is an excellent comment Taiwanese. I do know of a lot of people who donate to Tzu Chi but haven't met any that are willing to say that they do. I didn't know that talking about volunteering was a cultural taboo, that is quite interesting and enlightening. Thanks for the excellent comment.