Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Government's job program fizzles out due to lack of work

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

A government plan to pay companies to hire the unemployed has proved unsuccessful since corporate hiring needs are still weak, a government official said yesterday.

"Many companies are reluctant to take on new workers, especially after SARS dragged down the economy," said Yeh Yung-lung (葉雲龍), deputy director of the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Small and Medium Enterprise Administration that presides over the program. "So, we're not surprised few companies have made use of the program."

To reduce the unemployment rate, currently around 5 percent, the government is offering a subsidy of NT$10,000 per month to small-and-medium companies for each unemployed worker they hire. Each company is allowed to hire up to 20 new staff, and the subsidy is good for up to 12 months. Companies that participate in the program are forbidden from laying off existing workers or employing relatives.

The goal of the program is to cut the jobless rate by 0.3 percent before the end of the year. While the ministry hopes to extend the hiring subsidy to 25,000 workers, only a measly 1,500 have been hired so far.

The ministry will hit the road to promote the plan further.

"We will try to encourage more employers to make use of this program by holding several info-meetings nationwide and hope the remaining 23,500 jobless can be employed soon," Yeh said.

One business leader said the government definition of "jobless" is too strict.

"The government should relax the requirements for companies to hire jobless workers and receive funds," said Day Sheng-tung (戴勝通), chairman of the National Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (中小企業協會) who also coordinates the plan. "Any jobless person should be qualified."

Eligible unemployed workers must register with the Council of Labor Affairs, be aged between 30 to 65 and have been jobless for over six months in the past three years, Day said. The council's database currently has more than 150,000 people waiting to find work.

In addition to the qualification hurdle, Day said some employers simply haven't seen the need to take on additional staff.

"As the economy seems better after SARS is under control, I believe many employers will gradually need more manpower to increase productivity," Day said.

One job market watcher, however, pointed out that professional skills, rather than monetary incentives, weigh more significantly with employers looking for new staff.

"In general, those who are qualified and registered with the government's jobless database are considered to have fewer work skills," said Frank Yu (游偉誌), a job market analyst at 104 Job Bank Corp (104人力銀行).

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