Maintain passion in your work, but do not pay too much attention to salary, position and advancement. That is one of 14 tips National Taiwan University (NTU) president Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) last week gave to NTU graduates on their future jobs, drawing mixed reactions from around the campus and the nation.
For those who did not welcome Lee’s suggestions, they said the president was not on their side and felt his stance seemed too inclined toward employers, viewing first-time job seekers as cheap laborers. It is not surprising that they asked Lee to write letters to employers addressing the issue of low starting salaries on their behalf.
Their concerns about low starting pay are not groundless, however. The latest 104 Job Bank survey, which polled 639 employers between April 26 and May 10, showed that the average starting pay for new graduates was NT$26,432 a month this year. That figure was NT$743 lower than the first-time job seekers’ expected salary of NT$27,175 for this year and was NT$1,220 less than the average starting salary of NT$27,652 employers offered last year.
However, there were people who appreciated what Lee said. They thought new graduates should focus more on what they could learn from their first job rather than on how much they could earn, because the competition in the job market remains strong this year as some graduates who left school the previous year remain out of work.
They also believed it was better for new graduates to have a job — any job — to give them experience and strengthen their capabilities than have nothing to start with.
By all accounts, Lee’s remarks were well intended and his other tips to new job seekers — like getting along with co-workers, fostering better working relationships and improving skills that are necessary for long-term career plans — were aimed to help new employees become successful.
However, with the rising cost of living in Taiwan, it is understandable that new graduates would expect higher starting pay.
Lee’s remarks also highlighted other youth employment problems in the nation, such as its high rate of unemployment for college graduates and their lack of the necessary skills for satisfactory job performance.
Based on government statistics released last week, the nation’s unemployment rate was 4.29 percent last month, the lowest in 31 months. However, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 4.24 percent last month and 4.8 percent for university graduates or above. The same data also showed the number of overall unemployed was 477,000 last month, including nearly 220,000 people holding college degrees or above.
These data about youth employment indicate that an advanced education does not guarantee a good job. Moreover, despite the fact that the number of colleges, universities and graduate schools has increased sharply over the years, Taiwan’s younger generation is not more competitive than older generations, nor has the younger generation become richer than previous generations.
When an increasing number of employers complain about the professional skills students learned at school failing to meet their expectations in the workplace, it is not just a waste of time for students to strive for a better education, but also a serious issue for the government’s education policy.