Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 8 News List

An outdated system that just won't be changed

By Lii Ding-tsann 李丁讚

A PUBLIC consensus was reached in support of reforming the 18 percent preferential savings interest rate for military personnel, civil servants and teachers.

The initiative was supported by the National Teachers' Association (全國教師會), and the various parties' legislative caucuses had also discussed and passed the motion.

But certain university teachers' associations opposed the reform because of their low salaries.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) caucuses then dropped out of the negotiations, putting this hard-fought opportunity for reform at risk.

There are two reasons that I support going ahead with the reform.

To begin with, the 18 percent system for civil servants and teachers is the product of a time when these groups had much lower salaries.

Putting it another way, this system and its pecularities are the end result of specific historical circumstances.

TIMES CHANGE

Today, however, their salaries are no longer that low when compared with those of laborers and farmers.

Furthermore, when the system was established, bank interest rates were still high, and the 18 percent system did not seem unacceptable in the eyes of the public.

Today, however, bank interest rates are close to zero, and this makes the 18 percent preferential interest rate seem astronomical in the eyes of many.

It therefore comes as no surprise that some people regard the system as a special privilege and an intolerable one at that.

Furthermore, the existence of the 18 percent system has led to a lack of transparency in our general mechanism for compensation, which readily incites jealousy between social classes. The fact that some teachers receive more money after retirement than they did before angers many people on lower incomes.

I once heard someone complain that no matter how hard he worked, he still only earned half of what a retired teacher gets.

He said he wouldn't complain that he was making less than others who were working, but he could not accept that some people would make so much after retiring.

He blasted the government for not taking better care of the poor.

It could be argued that the salaries of college teachers are a bit on the low side.

But the issue must be tackled by adjusting salary structures, rather than through this outdated 18 percent system.

OPAQUE SYSTEM

This kind of opaque system only aggravates feelings of social inequality and deepens social divisions.

The KMT has always come across as a party ultimately oriented to the middle classes, and it is not very sensitive to the interests of laborers and farmers.

Its opposition to the 18 percent reform once again reveals the party's middle class bias. This is regrettable.

I also want to express my respect for the National Teachers Association.

While responsible for voicing the concerns of the nation's teachers, the association has tackled reform of the 18 percent system from the wider perspective of what is in the best interests of the greater community.

This sets a good example for all teachers and is worthy of our respect.

Lii Ding-tzann is a professor in the Graduate School of sociology at National Tsing-hua University.

Translated by Lin Ya-ti

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