September 5, 2023
As UN Women pays attention to the major impact COVID-19 is having on women, and announces recommendations to address women's needs, we look into how Taiwanese women expect the outbreak might unfold and their opinions on several economic issues.
Nearly 68% of the women believe the outbreak will get worse in the next 30 days, especially those with children are even more worried. Overall speaking, women expect an average of 7 months for Taiwanese people's life to go back to normal. Among them, the majority (61%) believe it will take 6 months or less.
Compared with previous survey results, as the number of confirmed cases increases, more women become worried about the impact on their everyday lives, but they also expect the economy and life quality to be better in the future. If the government can contain the spread, stabilize the economy, as well as ensuring a safe environment for consumption, people will be able to regain their confidence quickly.
As the world is being hit hard by COVID-19, global financial market has responded to the pandemic with worrying volatility. Every trade in Taiwan has also been affected by international market shifts and the decline in domestic consumer spending. 55% of Taiwanese women believe that it is too risky to invest right now, so they will not put their money in stocks, foreign exchange or bonds in the near future. However, another 44% of them, who are willing to invest now, can tolerate up to an average of 25% of losses. This means there are people wishing to take bigger risks for higher returns at the time of crisis.
When being asked what kind of investment is best for countering market volatility, 37% of them think the best money move is to keep the cash on hand at this time, especially those with children, are more inclined to hold onto cash. Next, 20% of the respondents believe that gold and precious metals are more resilient to market volatility, and they prefer a more conservative portfolio.
When it comes to purchasing consumer products, women in charge of household expenditure only have a slight increase of 3% in their overall budget for the next three months. The younger ones are more inclined to make more purchases, but women aged 40-50 will be spending less. If we look into the budget by product category, we can see huge changes in each. household goods (22.5%) and pachaged foods (20.4%) gained the most in spending budget. Health supplements (19.0%) also show growth in demand, which is in line with the recent panic buying phenomenon. The largest reduction is in tourism (-40.3%), luxury goods (-32.3%), and alcoholic beverages (-14.6%). It is noteworthy that women with children not only have a greater budget increase in household goods, packaged foods and medicine/health supplements, but also reduce a lot in travel and luxury goods. This shows women with kids are being more conservative and practical when it comes to spending.
As the outbreak accelerates worldwide, Taiwan's number of confirmed cases of a single day hit record high in April, women's spending budget has demonstrated polarization, comparing with March. They are now even more concerned with practicality and necessity, so there's even more budget growth in household goods, pachaged foods, and medicine/health supplements, and more budget cut in travel, luxury goods, alcoholic beverages and dining/entertainment.
According to the overall analysis, most Taiwanese worry that Taiwan will also go into lockdown as the other countries do if the pandemic worsens; therefore, they need to buy more household necessities in case there are supply shortages. On the other hand, there is a great reduction in the demand of luxury goods and non-essential goods, because they want to keep the cash to cope with future uncertainties. Yet there are also people wishing to take advantage of the market volatility for profits - those who have extra cash available and can afford more investment risks. With this kind of perception, if the government gives out cash directly to everyone, instead of relieving the ones desperately in need first and excluding the wealthy first, people are more likely to save it up instead of making purchases. Then the money relief will fail to achieve the goal of sparking consumer spending.
As the trend indicates, there will be a gradual decline in all economy activities until the pandemic is over or alleviated. The general public will also become even more conservative with investment and consumption. Taiwanese government is currently planning its economic policies in two directions: to boost consumption and to ease the plight of enterprises and people. While expecting people who are financially better off to spend more, the government will provide more financing loans and give out relief money for companies and workers affected by COVID-19. The relief measures are meant to keep their productivity and purchasing power, help them get through the coronavirus crisis and maintain their strength, so as to facilitate quick recovery after the outbreak is eased.
Whether it's an economic stimulus or a relief program, the government should make it simple and convenient for companies and workers, so they can have easy access to the help they require.
Because the last thing we want is that large corporations with human/financial resources are granted with subsidies whereas those who are truly economically disadvantaged cannot get the funding. At the same time, government officials should also clearly state the details of the stimulus and the relief programs, as well as explaining how these two differ in their economic goals. What is the reason to adopt different policies/measures? How can they be used together to create synergy? We should avoid unnecessary verbal fights in order not to miss the opportunities or delay Taiwan's economic recovery.