Kaohsiung, Jan. 14 (CNA) A total of 268 people committed suicide in Kaohsiung City in 2008, eight fewer than in 2007, but more suicides were occurring among older people, Daylily Depression Prevention Association Chairman Lin Ken-shin reported Wednesday.
Lin, citing figures compiled by the Kaohsiung City's suicide prevention center, gave the report at a public hearing sponsored by Kaohsiung City Councilor Chou Lin-wen.
Although the number of suicides in the city dropped in 2008, Lin said, it is worth noting that the age range of the majority of such deaths has risen.
In 2007, the majority of suicides were among people aged 25-44 years old, but in 2008 that shifted to the 45-64 age group, he said.
According to Lin, this is an indication that the family wage earners have become the main victims of the current financial crisis.
Unemployment, financial problems and other sources of worry, such as children's education and marital problems are some of the contributing factors to the suicide problem, he added.
Quoting the results of a U.S. survey, Lin said jobless people are five times more likely than working people to commit suicide.
"Unemployment is probably the chief factor in this wave of suicides," he added.
"Jobless workers who were laid off last year might soon exhaust their severance pay," Lin said.
He forecast that the suicide rate would rise this year due to the deteriorating economic situation.
Kaohsiung City lifeline workers and job bank representatives, who were also at the public hearing, warned that the forecast higher in unemployment in the coming months could result in a rising suicide rate.
Kaohsiung City Lifeline Association Chairman Su Ming-feng pointed out that Taiwan's suicide rate is one of the highest in Asia and he also expressed concern that the country's structural unemployment might further push up its suicide rate.
Many university and college graduates who are reluctant to take low paying jobs will become a serious part of the unemployment problem, he contended.
The government and education authorities are to be blamed for this problem, as they have failed to craft a good employment and human resources project to match market trends, Su charged.
Hsieh Shih-chiung, deputy director of the vocational training center of the city's labor affairs bureau, said about 29,000 workers are jobless in Kaohsiung City, with 2,500 of them receiving unemployment subsidies.
Some workers from 42 companies in the city's two export processing zones are on unpaid leave, she added.
With the Chinese New Year approaching, Chou called on the entire social welfare network, including temples and welfare foundations, to team up to provide assistance to poor families.
Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city after Taipei, is a heavily industrial area in southern Taiwan.
(By Flor Wang)