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Taiwan Children Going Hungry

Authorities in Taipei, Taiwan Province's capital city, are striving to keep children from dropping out of school or going hungry because their parents recently lost jobs amid record high unemployment.

In Taipei, about 2,400 children from the island's 280 elementary and junior high schools cannot pay for their school lunches, officials said.

The children's families are not listed as low-income ones eligible for government subsidies, and the lunches, for now, are paid by emergency school funds, Huang Li-hsien, deputy director of the bureau of education, said yesterday.

Two decades of economic prosperity have raised a generation of pampered children in Taiwan. Now, hungry and other miserable kids are making headlines, reported The Associated Press.

Elementary and junior high schools are tuition-free in Taiwan. Still, newspapers said many children recently dropped out of school because their parents could not afford school lunches, textbooks, uniforms and other expenses.

Taiwan's jobless rate is expected to hit a new annual high of 4.57 percent this year, up from last year's 2.99, as many factories downsized or shut down in the worst economic recession that has hit the island in decades.

The jobless rate among men - the key earner in many families - hit nearly 6 percent last month, against a rate for women of 4.28 percent.

While men were laid off by factories, women found lower paying jobs in fast-food and other service sector jobs.

"We are doing all we can to prevent the economic woes from hurting the children, and we are soliciting business donations to help resolve the problem," Huang said.

The slumping economy may have at least one bright prospect.

School children are now taught about the traditional virtues of lending a helping hand.

(eastday.com December 26, 2001)

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