Taiwan Tops Asia in Human Freedom Index Despite Pandemic Challenges

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taiwan tops asia in human freedom index despite pandemic challenges

Taiwan has maintained its position as the top-ranked country in Asia and the 12th in the world in the 2023 Human Freedom Index (HFI), a report that measures the degree of personal and economic freedom in 165 jurisdictions around the world. 

The report, published by the U.S.-based Cato Institute and Canada-based Fraser Institute, praised Taiwan for its resilience and performance in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressure from China.

The HFI, which uses data from 2021, the most recent year for which sufficient data were available, evaluates the state of human freedom based on two main categories: economic freedom and personal freedom. 

Economic freedom covers indicators such as the size of government, the legal system and property rights, sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation. Personal freedom covers indicators such as the rule of law, security and safety, movement, religion, expression and information, relationships, and association, assembly and civil society.

According to the report, Taiwan scored 8.56 out of 10 in the overall human freedom index, slightly lower than its previous score of 8.81 in 2019. However, Taiwan improved its ranking in economic freedom from 24th to 11th in the world, with a score of 7.97, while maintaining its ranking in personal freedom at 12th, with a score of 8.98. 

The report noted that Taiwan’s economic freedom score was higher than the regional average of 6.91 and the world average of 6.75, and that its personal freedom score was higher than the regional average of 6.04 and the world average of 6.93.

The report also said that human freedom “deteriorated severely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” pointing to “significant declines in the rule of law, freedom of movement, expression, association and assembly, and freedom to trade.” 

Taiwan was among the countries that experienced a decline in its human freedom score due to the pandemic, mainly in the areas of freedom of movement and media and expression. However, the report also acknowledged that Taiwan was one of the few countries that successfully contained the virus and minimized its impact on the economy and society, thanks to its effective public health measures, digital technology, and civic participation.

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The report also highlighted the challenges and threats that Taiwan faces from China, which claims sovereignty over the island and has increased its military and diplomatic pressure on it. 

The report said that China ranked 149th in the world in the human freedom index, with a score of 5.22, and that it had one of the lowest scores in both economic and personal freedom. The report urged the international community to support Taiwan’s democracy and human rights, and to counter China’s aggression and coercion.

The HFI, which is based on the concept of negative freedom or the absence of coercive constraint, is the most comprehensive empirical measure of freedom yet created. It aims to provide a useful tool for scholars, policymakers, and activists to compare and contrast the state of human freedom across countries and regions, and to identify the factors and policies that enhance or undermine human freedom.

The top 10 countries in the 2023 HFI were Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Luxembourg, Finland, and Norway. The bottom 10 countries were Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Venezuela, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea, and Saudi Arabia.

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