Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Efforts to create more jobs may be misguided

By Chiu Li-Li 邱莉莉

Recently, local governments have been agonizing over the same problem -- not unemployment, but rather "employment." Adopting a policy of giving a dollar when being asked for 50 cents, the central government is forcing "job opportunities" down the throats of local governments.

Taipei County Government's public service programs, for example, initially included more than 2,000 people. But under the Executive Yuan's quota, the county is to be allocated jobs for more than 14,000. Where will the work be found for them to do?

The task force reviewing the Cabinet's public-service employment expansion proposal has made an initial decision to allocate 75,000 public-service jobs to cities and counties throughout the country, to be distributed in accordance with the proportions of unemployed people over 35 in those localities relative to the national figure in the same age range. Such an allocation has the appearance of fairness, but will it lead to a waste of human resources?

This form of allocation will be flawed unless the Executive Yuan makes sure that the middle-aged and elderly unemployed population in each locality is proportionate to the demand for public services there.

Let me give a simple example. According to data from the Council for Economic Planning and Development, middle-aged and elderly people make up only 30.7 percent of the unemployed population of Nantou County, which became a disaster area when it bore the brunt of the 921 earthquake of 1999.

In Taipei City, however, these age groups account for 40.7 percent of the unemployed population. Nantou County remains a pile of ruins waiting to be rebuilt. It certainly has a greater need for public services than any other county or city. Because it has a relatively low proportion of middle-aged and elderly unemployed, however, it gets a smaller quota for public-service jobs than Taipei City.

I would not be so rash as to say that public-service jobs in Taipei City will not contribute to economic growth, but I believe that the same proportion -- or the same number -- of people would be more cost-effective if deployed in Nantou County.

If the Executive Yuan is only worried about the appearance of fairness in allocating the quotas and does not want to consider the effectiveness of its allocations, then it will inevitably invite criticism that the plan has been hastily put together.

I am not against the government trying to revitalize the economy by providing short-term job opportunities, but the NT$4 billion Employment Security Fund is hard-earned, taxpayer's money.

The complacent pursuit of convenience alone is not acceptable. If political opposition from certain cities and counties is the reason for the flawed system of allocation, then I would suggest that those who take up the public-service jobs should be allowed to work across city and county boundaries. This will take care of both fairness and effectiveness.

Chiu Li-li is a Tainan City councilor.

Translated by Francis Huang

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