The legislature’s Economics Committee yesterday passed a resolution demanding that the National Development Council (NDC) come up with a policy to increase the nation’s salary level within a month.
“The nation’s wage level has not increased as much as inflation, causing private consumption to be low and dragging down the economy,” the committee said.
According to the committee, the average real wage level from January through November last year was NT$44,700 (US$1,476), lower than the NT$44,900 recorded 15 years ago.
The committee also urged the council to study whether the government should increase its monthly minimum wage.
During a question-and-answer session at the committee, NDC Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) said low productivity, partially caused by local firms’ lack of key technological knowhow, was the main reason for stagnant wages.
“Some companies have raised their wages every year despite economic downturns, as they hold important technology and can provide value-added services and products to the market,” Kuan said.
The government does not have an immediate remedy to increase the nation’s productivity, but it will try to boost the economy by creating a more favorable environment for businesses, he said.
“No one is willing to invest in a country that is cut off from the outside world, so we are trying to move toward regional economic integration,” Kuan said.
With the nation’s economy moving at a slower pace than its Asian peers, the government is gearing up for participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to expand external trade opportunities.
Kuan said the nation is likely to participate in the second round of TPP talks after the first round of talks finishes by the end of June.
“Japan is willing to support the nation in its bid to join the talks, and the most important thing for us now is to win over the US’ backing,” he told the committee.
The government also has high hopes for the free economic pilot zones scheme, with a draft bill regarding the establishment of the zones set to be reviewed by the committee today, to promote the economy, he said.
However, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said the council has not provided a clear estimate about the effect of the scheme, making the government’s plan look “dubious.”
Other legislators said the pilot zones plan could hurt the agricultural sector as it allows companies to process raw materials from China.
“To help the agricultural sector, the government should focus on opening more retail channels for local agricultural products. The pilot zones plan completely misses this point,” Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Yeh Chin-lin (葉津鈴) said.