Your move to Taiwan will lead you to one of East Asia’s most dynamic and powerful economies — also known as the Asian Tigers. Located some 180 km to the east off the coast of China, the small and densely populated island has made the most of its geographic limitations and cultivated an economy that attracts many an expat. Below, we take a look at the country’s main agglomerations — the primary destinations of most immigrants and expatriates.
The large numbers of people moving to Taiwan’s urban areas both in the past and present led to an urbanization rate surpassing the 70% mark. This fact and the general tendency of the Taiwanese economy operating in sector clusters in or adjacent to metropolitan areas, are the reasons why expats in Taiwan mostly settle in one of the seven large conurbations and metro regions of the west coast. These are, ordered by population, the Taipei-Keelung, Chungli-Taoyuan, Taichung-Changhwa, Tainan, and Kaohsiung metro areas, as well as the secondary metro areas of Hsinchu and Chiayi. Many, if not all, of these cities boast science parks as a major incentive for expats and multinational companies — we have taken a closer look at these parks in our article on working in Taiwan.
Generally speaking, the steady flow of people moving to Taiwan’s urban agglomerations has led to a densely populated west coast, with central and eastern regions of the country being much less populated. The seven areas mentioned above have a population of more than 15 million between them. While the rates and numbers of immigrants and expats moving to the country are fairly low with 1.0 immigrants per 1000 Taiwanese, expat communities tend to be strong, and you should not have a hard time finding other expats or compatriots, especially in the metro areas.
Nearly seven million people call Taipei and its metro region, consisting of New Taipei and Keelung, their home — this amounts to more than a quarter of the total population. Taipei also is a veritable hotspot for expats moving to Taiwan; not very surprising if you consider that the city is not only the national capital, but also the most significant city in cultural and economic terms. In 2004, Taipei carried its name out into the world with the opening of Taipei 101, the gigantic skyscraper (and formerly tallest structure on earth) that made the city known also to those who were not contemplating becoming expats in Taiwan.
The city on the northern tip of the island is also among the first thingd you are likely to see of the country when first entering or moving to Taiwan, as it is home to the country’s biggest international airport, located some 30 km outside the city limits.
Economically, Taipei is fairly multifaceted with major companies of the secondary and tertiary sectors operating in or around the city. Major economic pillars include the textiles and apparel industries, shipbuilding, banking and finance, and — possibly one of the most important motives for many expats in Taiwan — manufacturing of electronic components and devices. Another neat tidbit of information that might delight those of you moving to Taiwan for purely economic reasons: Taipei has the highest per capita GDP in the country.
While it probably goes without saying that Taipei has to face congested streets on a daily basis, the city administration has reacted to the rising numbers of people moving to the capital with an extensive network of public transportation options. These range from the Taipei Metro (MRT) to buses, and also include railway and high-speed rail connections to other cities on the west coast. While the many different transit agencies providing bus services might seem confusing for newcomers, you will be happy to hear that the Taipei smartcard known as EasyCard is valid on all modes of public transportation throughout the city. You can get the EasyCard at all MRT stations and supermarket chains.
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