Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 12 News List

Associations urge government to respect market when promoting wage growth

Staff writer, with CNA

The leaders of two major business associations yesterday urged the government to respect market mechanisms and corporate autonomy when promoting wage growth.

“I believe [wages] would rise naturally if the government focuses more on economic stimulus plans and tries harder to devise good [economic] policies,” General Chamber of Commerce chairman Lai Cheng-yi (賴正鎰) said.

He was responding to strategies proposed by the Cabinet earlier in the day to resolve the problem of low wages.

The strategies, aimed at increasing the wages of low-paid workers, include raising the minimum wage for government employees to NT$30,000 a month, encouraging or pressing private firms to follow suit, and raising the hourly minimum wage from NT$140 to NT$150.

However, Lai said that “this is not a case of the government simply throwing out numbers and then [wages] moving higher. I do not think this will work.”

Also, wages in the services sector are not as low as the government thinks they are, he said, adding that the private sector is aware that it cannot hire people by offering low wages.

Taipei-based Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce chairman Lin Por-fong (林伯豐) said improving the investment environment is what the government should set as its top priority.

He urged the government to allow enterprises to run themselves freely.

“Every company has its own management approach. If the government interferes with this, and demands things that it cannot achieve itself, it would only intensify conflict between the management and employees,” he said.

In such a scenario, some companies might end up having to reduce the number of employees or even close down, let alone raise wages, Lin said.

Lai and Lin said they support the government’s efforts to raise the wages of low-paid contract workers in the public sector, but added that striving for economic growth is the fundamental solution.

Wages have remained relatively stagnant when inflation is factored in after being driven down during the 2008 to 2009 global financial crisis.

Average real monthly earnings, which include irregular income, such as overtime and bonuses, and are adjusted for inflation, rose to an all-time first-quarter high of NT$59,852, but that was still only 2.4 percent higher than real monthly earnings of NT$58,447 in the first quarter of 2000.

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