People and Language

At a Glance
• Fusion of Han, Austronesian and immigrant cultures
• Customs of indigenous peoples
• Falling birth rates and aging population

Over 95 percent of Taiwan’s population is of Han Chinese ancestry, with the remainder composed of indigenous Austronesian peoples and recent immigrants. Han Taiwanese are the descendants of immigrants that arrived in two main waves—first, in the 17th century after the Manchu invasion of the main-land, and later, in 1949, when the ROC government relocated to the is-land. Austronesian peoples, meanwhile, have inhabited the island for millennia. Since the late 1990s, an increased number of marriages be-tween ROC citizens and foreign nationals has further diversified the nation’s ethnic makeup.

Mandarin, the official language, is almost universally spoken and understood, while large segments of the population also speak Holo and Hakka. In addition, Taiwan’s indigenous groups have their own Austronesian languages while immigrants speak a variety of tongues. Longer lifespans combined with one of the lowest birth rates in the world have made Taiwan a rapidly aging society.

People over 65 now exceed 10 percent of the population, while each woman on average gives birth to one child during her lifetime. Policies have been enacted at the national and local levels to create a supportive child-rearing environment, improve preventative health care and provide a comprehensive social security net for the graying population.