The unemployment rate remains at a high level. As victims of factory closure or after relocating to China, many workers have been left without a pension. Military personnel, civil servants, and government-employed teachers, on the other hand, are often better off after retirement as a result of generous pensions or savings, receiving preferential interest rates of 18 percent.
How much better off are these retired military personnel, civil servants and teachers? President Chen Shui-ban (陳水扁) said that if you look around the world, receiving 80 percent of income as a retirement payout is considered extremely high, but in Taiwan, the figure can often exceed 100 percent, to go as high as 120 percent.
This is clearly absurd. Although Chen's intention to introduce reform is admirable, results cannot be expected immediately. It will require across-the-board planning to devise a system that is long-lasting and fair.
Although military personnel, civil servants, and teachers are employed by the government, they are still ordinary workers. But ordinary workers in Taiwan enjoy none of their advantages. Clearly there is a double standard in effect. From the previous Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime to today's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, military personnel, civil servants, and teachers have been pampered, while farmers, fishermen and other workers cannot even hope for such treatment. It is not an exaggeration to say that they have been treated as second-class citizens.
The majority of workers have long been dissatisfied with the preferential treatment, monthly pension and 18 percent interest savings that is given to military personnel, civil servants and teachers. In recent years, the deterioration of the economy has meant that these benefits impose a heavy financial burden on the country. If the system is not thoroughly reformed, the government will not be able to bear this burden indefinitely.
Chen recently pointed out that the military personnel and public servants recruited after 1995 are no longer entitled to the preferential savings rate of 18 percent, adding that "there should be an opportunity to reform such a policy even though we cannot abolish it." In this case, the government should draw up a timetable and a comprehensive plan to get the reform off the ground rather than constantly putting it off.
Aside from this preferential interest rate, it is also about time the government reformed the monthly pension enjoyed by retired civil servants.
Nowadays, life expectancy is generally much longer than before as a result of advanced medical treatment and the growing awareness of healthy living. At present, many people who entered the public service in their early twenties are still in the prime of life, but are already eligible for retirement.
Consequently, it will be easy for these people to receive a pension for 20 or even 30 years. This will only lead the nation to face a heavy burden on the financial front and to waste precious human resources, for these people are still able to contribute much to the nation. Instead, the current system encourages former public servants to retire in their prime.
Unfortunately, most of the taxpayers in Taiwan are unable to enjoy this kind of retirement system. We believe that the problem is going to deteriorate into chaos as society gradually ages and the birth rate declines.