Mon, Apr 01, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Bill to attract foreigners would boost GDP: CIER

Staff writer, with CNA

A draft bill aimed at attracting foreign nationals to fill the workforce gap in Taiwan is likely to create more job opportunities, raise real wages and improve domestic GDP, a think tank said on Saturday.

The draft new economic immigration act put forth by the National Development Council, which is being reviewed at the Legislative Yuan, could produce 5,000 new jobs, raise average real wages — wages adjusted for inflation — by 0.623 percent and boost GDP by 0.041 percent, a report by the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER, 中華經濟研究院) showed.

The council is hoping that the bill, which targets people with intermediate skills, such as technicians and personal healthcare workers, will address shortages in those fields.

Government statistics show that in 2017, Taiwan had a labor shortage of 218,000 workers, with 55 percent of the positions being for mid-level technicians, mainly in the manufacturing sector.

Local labor groups have raised concerns that the introduction of the bill would take jobs away from Taiwanese, but the research institute said that is not likely, because it makes provisions to protect local workers.

In the bill, a minimum salary has been set for the employment of foreign workers, which is higher than that for local employees, and it specifies that those positions can only be filled by foreign nationals if Taiwanese do not want them, CIER said.

The minimum salary for foreign workers would be at least in the 70th percentile of the average salary for each occupation, which would be NT$41,393 for industrial technicians and NT$32,000 for healthcare workers, it said, using pay data from last year.

The introduction of foreign workers to meet workforce demand would increase production and output, which in turn, would drive demand for more local workers, said Hsin Ping-lung (辛炳隆), an associate professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development.

While the bill might create difficulties for Taiwanese jobseekers in some categories, the negative effects would be insignificant compared with the benefits, said Hsin, who was part of the CIER research team.

Under the proposal, “mid-level technicians” would not be considered blue-collar workers, because they would be subject to specific requirements, including professional certification, minimum salary levels and caps on the total number of such positions that could be filled by foreign nationals in each industry, the council said.

The draft has won the support of local business representatives, including Tsai Lien-sheng (蔡練生), secretary-general of the Taiwan-based Chinese National Federation of Industries (全國工業總會).

Tsai said he hoped the government would invest more resources in the bill to help upgrade local industries.

Rock Hsu (許勝雄), chairman of the Third Wednesday Club, a group of business leaders, said the proposed act would help fill job openings that Taiwanese do not want.

Although many local industries are moving toward automation, technicians are needed around the clock to make sure the automated facilities are functioning properly, Hsu said, adding that few Taiwanese are willing to take graveyard shifts.

If the labor shortage is not addressed, local businesses would be forced to relocate overseas for easier access to labor, he added.

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