ESL jobs in Taiwan in an Era of Demographic Change

As strange as it may seem, the history of Taiwan has a profound effect on the availability of ESL jobs in Taiwan today. Indeed, in many ways the country is victim of its own success. Between 1900 and 2000 the population of Taiwan increased from 3.04 to 22.3 million. Since the mid-1980s, however, population growth has fallen below replacement levels [2.1%]. After a mid-century high of 3.68%, by 2010 Taiwan’s population growth was less than 0.2% – the lowest rate ever recorded in Taiwan.

Although this decline is doubtless attributable to the country’s economic successes – the decline in fertility begins at the same time its economy experienced its greatest growth – these trends have a profound implication for those who wish to teach English in Taiwan. According to government figures, in 1980 a little less a third of the population was below the age of 15 and less than 5% were over 64. It is exactly this youth bulge that led the high demand for English language education (and therefore abundant supply ESL jobs) in Taiwan.

Some 30 years later, in 2010, the implications of the low birth rate are clear: only 15% of the population is below the age of 15 and more than 10% above 64. This is a dramatic and precipitous decline; as recently as 2000 children and adolescents made up more than 21% of the population. At this rate the population of Taiwan is expected to begin to decline as early as 2020 and ESL jobs in Taiwan will never be the same. In fact, in the face of declining enrollment many schools are already being forced to cut back on their English language programs and will doubtless continue to do so. Even if these trends are slow they are important considerations for would-be English teachers. Teaching English in Taiwan is no longer as easy as it used to be.