For a more general look at Pingtung County, please refer to the An Introduction to Pingtung County entry. For what follows I consulted the county census for August 2021.
There are 807,970 people living in Pingtung County. 411,488 of these people are men, and 396,482 are women. 60,674 of these people are members of aboriginal tribes, and 2,266 of them moved to Pingtung from other areas. A larger number, 2,545 moved away from the county last month. 310 babies were born in Pingtung in July, and 692 people, over double that number, passed away.
There are some trends observable in the above numbers. The primary trend is a decline in population. Pingtung's population was largest around 1995, when the census recorded over 900,000 people here. Since then the population has declined by about 100,000, and there is no reason to think that this trend will be arrested or reversed. Many people are still leaving Pingtung to find work elsewhere, and with the number of births only half the number of deaths this trend will probably become even more dramatic in the near future.
There is also the average age of the population to consider. With an increasingly elderly population, Pingtung will likely experience a kind of "emptying out" in the short term, with villages outside of urban areas becoming less populated, less livable, and less economically viable.
Looking at the number of people living in various parts of Pingtung can also give a clearer picture of what's to come. The most populous part of the county, Pingtung City, boasts 196,653 residents, or 24% of the population. With the Pingtung County Government located in Pingtung City, and with almost a fourth of the county's population there, decisions made by the county government will tend to reflect what's going on in Pingtung City, and not what's going on in more remote areas. For those who want less government interference in their lives, and who happen to live in an outlying area, this can be a good thing, but in terms of improving social services and infrastructure it can be a real obstacle. Many people in Pingtung want to make their county better, but the distance between those making the decisions and those affected by them tends to make the county government somewhat uncertain, prone to error, and in some areas open to corruption.
After Pingtung City, the most populous parts of the county are Chazhou (53,851) and Neipu (52,910). Chaozhou, southeast of Pingtung City, is a lot closer to the center of the county, and is a major transportation hub. The 88 Expressway from Kaohsiung ends in Chaozhou, the Chaozhou Train Station was recently upgraded, and much of its infrastructure serves nearby townships. Neipu, benefiting from its location east of Pingtung City, has more of an industrial base, and is close to two major universities.
This said, Chaozhou only has about 7% of the county's total population, with Neipu closer to 6%. Aside from Chaozhou, Pingtung's other two municipalities, Donggang and Hengchun, can only claim populations of 46,590 (6%) and 30,236 (4%) respectively. Both of these areas have declined in population over the years, with Donggang's population peaking around 2006, and Hengchun's population peaking even further back, around 1981.
And even Hengchun's population looks big when compared to some of the mountain townships, wherein only a few thousand, mostly aboriginal people live. An aging and shrinking population looms large in Pingtung's future, with increasing numbers of people either dying off or moving out of the county. I have no doubt that some will continue to move into Pingtung; I have no doubt that some younger residents will find opportunity here, but the overall trend points in the opposite direction, with many of the villages where people grew up and once prospered beginning to resemble ghost towns.
Does all of this sound depressing? Maybe to some, but others might see it as a good thing. Land prices, for one thing, are likely to go down outside of the major urban and tourist centers. Traffic, Pingtung's Achilles heel, might actually get better and - we hope - safer. Natural areas, not well protected in this county, will also benefit from less population pressure. And the sun will continue to shine in the sky, the birds will sing in the trees, and life will go on, as it invariably does, in most places.
NOTE 1: The map at the top is a map of population density, not just population. It does, however, agree with everything stated in this entry.
NOTE 2: For those reading this on a laptop, how are we feeling about the font size? The size of the text on a cell phone will remain the same, but for laptop viewing I've selected "medium." Too big? Too small? If anyone wants me to go back to "large" or start using "normal" let me know n the comments.
NOTE 3: I have an irritating "online seminar" this week, and translating this entry into Chinese would make me very, very tired. I may attempt to do so later in the semester.