Reuters offers yet another dismal report on the state of Taiwan’s economy….

Lack of family or close friends, or shame in confronting them in a society that puts a premium on getting ahead materially, pushes some jobless people outdoors.

“They think if that if they haven’t succeeded they can’t go home, and some don’t want to be a burden on anyone,” said Liu Chi-chen, a publicity worker with the Homeless Welfare Foundation. “Today’s society is very complex.”

Taiwan’s unemployment rate has hovered at 4 percent over the past two years, but salaries are stagnating or falling, with the best jobs elusive, as prices of food, rent and transportation go up. Cheap labor from Southeast Asia is standard at construction sites and factories in Taiwan.

Government statistics show that 3,655 homeless people were assisted last year compared to 2,260 five years ago. Many more go it alone or look to charities, aid workers say.

Within the past five years, the number of boxed lunches given away by the charity Homeless Welfare Foundation has soared from just over 9,000 per month to over 29,000 last month.

“In the past few years, the number of homeless people has gone up a lot as the unemployed population gets bigger,” said Lu Fang-tsuang who handles Buddhist charity Tzu Chi’s homeless relief work in northern Taiwan.

Reuters here makes a signficant deviation from facts reported elsewhere:

Employers have forecast their slowest hiring in three years because of rising global raw material prices and uncertainty over the outcome of Taiwan’s 2008 presidential election.

Is hiring slowing? Um….nope. Hiring is on the upswing, as Bloomberg reported:

Manufacturers, led by AU Optronics Corp. and Hewlett- Packard Co., and banks including Standard Chartered Plc are expanding and hiring more workers, boosting household incomes and stoking consumer spending. Faster economic growth provides room for the central bank to raise interest rates next month.

“The cyclical recovery in consumer spending has helped cushion slowing external demand and is the key to our rather upbeat growth assessment for Taiwan this year,” said Tony Phoo, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Taipei.

In addition to Bloomberg, the pro-KMT China Post — it is a plank in the KMT platform that the economy sucks and only the KMT can save it — also reported Taiwan’s excellent job numbers, citing the DGBAS:

Taiwan’s jobless rate remained unchanged at close to the lowest this year in October as companies hired workers amid signs the economy’s expansion is gathering pace.

The rate stayed at 3.89 percent last month from September, seasonally adjusted, the statistics bureau said in Taipei yesterday. That matched the median estimate of 13 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

The Taipei Times has an in-depth look at the strong positive numbers — projected at 5.46% this year, up from 4.5% predicted earlier this year, driven by booming export growth.

The always excellent Taiwan Review shows that the growing homeless problem is actually an ongoing issue with deep roots going back to the economic changes in the 1990s. Here’s what they wrote six years ago, in 2001:

Some factors are unique to the individual, but there are also historical, political, and socioeconomic factors at work,” Yang says. According to him, over 90 percent of his charges are men in the forty-to-sixty age group with not much education. Apart from the mentally and physically sick, and victims of domestic violence, there are also some veterans who came to Taiwan in 1949 with the KMT government. Some have no relatives in Taiwan to turn to for support. Others are deserters and therefore have no papers. The consequence is that they may not apply for a veteran’s pension or receive care at the various veterans’ homes run by the government islandwide.

In recent years, Yang has noticed that a growing number of people with marketable working skills are losing their homes through some traumatic change in circumstances, often the result of an economic downturn. After it became legal to hire laborers from abroad in 1990, most traditional manufacturers assembled work forces drawn from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, paying them less than Taiwanese would demand. This naturally threw many local people out of work. “The fact that a lot of manufacturers are now going bust or moving to mainland China or Asian countries in search of cheaper overheads only adds frost to the snow,” Yang says.

Over the past two years, social workers have also started to find white-collar workers living on the street. Usually they are well educated, and they held managerial or better positions in the company that formerly employed them. “You’ll even find people who used to run their own businesses,” Chen Ting-hsun says. “They’re often difficult to recognize as homeless, because they may still be wearing suits and ties.”

Both Yang and Chen predict an increase in the number of homeless people who are victims of drastic social and economic change, as Taiwan develops into a mature industrialized country. Pressures, particularly financial ones, are sapping the system of family ties that used to support people in times of adversity. At present, there are only a handful of sad stories about aged, frail parents being dumped on the street or rummaging through the garbage in search of food, but their number will increase, and with each increase the tale will become a little less shocking, a little less of a spur to make people stop and think about where things are going.

“Times have changed,” Chen observes dryly. “Nowadays it’s hard enough to support your own immediate family, even with two paychecks, let alone having to take care of your parents. Some old people deliberately chose to become homeless. They know that the law obliges children to take care of their parents, and they don’t want to be a burden.”

The whole article gives an excellent overview of the history of homeless policy in recent years, and an in-depth look at the homelessness problem. Well worth a read.