OPINION: Extending marriage to same-sex couples can boost Taiwan’s economic development

by Jennifer Lu | Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan
Wednesday, 1 May 2019 15:37 GMT

Supporters attend a rally to support the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum, in Taipei, Taiwan November 18, 2018. FILE PHOTO/REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Letting same-sex couples marry will boost Taiwan's standing globally and help companies thrive

Jennifer Lu is the chief coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan

Never before has a same-sex couple been able to legally marry in Asia.

But in less than a month, this is set to change in Taiwan. May 24 is the deadline imposed by the Constitutional Court by which the island’s parliament must either pass legislation extending marriage to same-sex couples – or do nothing and allow the freedom to marry to become law.

This comes after our highest court said in 2017 in no uncertain terms: the denial of marriage to same-sex couples is a clear violation of Taiwan’s constitution.

It should come as no surprise that Taiwan is leading the charge in Asia towards treating all families with respect. For decades, Taiwan has pioneered the pursuit of democratic ideals and human rights throughout the region – allowing our civil society to flourish, our companies to innovate and our national economy to thrive.

That is why the business community is speaking out in force for extending marriage to same-sex couples, not just because it’s the right thing to do – but because it will bolster Taiwan’s standing in the global economy.

Fifteen major corporations, including Airbnb, Deutsche Bank, EY, Google, Mastercard and Microsoft, have joined Taiwanese companies such as Backer-Founder and justfont to issue a joint letter in support of legislation proposed by the executive to extend marriage to same-sex couples, characterising the passage of the bill as an “economic imperative”.

The letter explains the findings of an economic brief detailing the expected economic benefits of the freedom to marry for Taiwan that was produced by Open for Business, a coalition of global companies making the case that diverse and inclusive societies are better for business and essential for economic growth.

The report – backed by nearly two decades of data and experience from the 26+ countries worldwide that already have the freedom to marry – found that marriage for same-sex couples would help Taiwan develop its economic competitiveness and facilitate an environment for companies to thrive.

Specifically, marriage equality and greater LGBT+ inclusion could help Taiwan:

  • Shift to high-value industries and foster innovation. Evidence shows that LGBT+ inclusive environments are better for innovation and entrepreneurship, attract higher levels of foreign direct investment and connect more easily with global market.
  • Slow the economic losses that may result from demographic shifts. Marriage equality will make it easier for companies to relocate and attract top talent to Taiwan and will reduce discrimination that could increase workforce productivity.
  • Help companies perform better as a result of their commitment to inclusion and diversity. Companies that are more LGBT+ inclusive are better able to attract and retain talent, have higher levels of innovation and collaboration, and have better financial performance.

These factors should be especially poignant to our elected officials.

Despite high rankings in the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Index, Taiwan’s rank has plateaued over the past five years – setting our government in a scramble for effective ways to foster growth and attract foreign investment.

Meanwhile, our increasingly ageing population has raised concern about the future of the workforce and our ability to retain a long-term, competitive edge.

When it comes to the issue of marriage for same-sex couples, our lawmakers would be wise to join with corporate leaders in pushing for a Taiwan that tells the world that we are open for business – that we value and affirm the potential of all workers and their families.