In recent weeks, the issue of a brain drain has generated heated debate in Taiwan. Despite the many differing opinions on the subject, people have begun to realize that this is a multifaceted problem which is impossible to ignore.
On one side, many businesses say they have jobs available but cannot find the right people to fill them. This illustrates that the problem stems from a mismatch between employers’ talent expectations and skill availability in potential employees. A recent survey by ManpowerGroup found that 47 percent of Taiwanese employers had difficulty filling critical positions within their organizations this year, exceeding the Asia-Pacific region’s average of 45 percent and the global average of 34 percent.
This is surprising, especially when considering that the number of graduates from local colleges, universities and graduate schools has continued to increase. The mismatch reflected in the survey suggests that prospective employees lack the appropriate experience and technical skills for the available jobs.
However, it also reflects that the types of jobs on offer are changing and that skill requirements are changing with them. These developments demand greater government collaboration with educational institutions to develop school curricula and increase investment in vocational training so that new graduates would possess the necessary skills required for the jobs on offer.
Within the manufacturing industry, the absence of young skilled workers to replace retirees makes the problem more complex. Young graduates have become disinterested with the manufacturing and industrial sectors, which suggests that part of the overall problem could relate to societal changes as well as developments in contemporary economic structures.
On the other side of the debate, people such as National Science Council Minister Cyrus Chu (朱敬一) are proposing that domestic businesses and industries need to raise employee salaries. If not, Taiwan will continue to experience difficulty holding on to domestic talent and attracting foreign professionals. There have also been calls for the government to expunge outdated laws and red tape in order to ameliorate the situation.
However, salary levels are dependent on market conditions as well as the types of jobs and skills needed. If the nation’s industrial upgrading and economic structural transformation lag behind its competitors and demand for low-skilled jobs remains ample, how is it possible for employers to pay higher salaries? The truth is that companies still find it easy to fill their low-paid positions and they do not hesitate to relocate overseas if domestic costs rise.
Nonetheless, not everyone believes that salary is the only relevant factor. For instance, Acer founder Stan Shih (施振榮) recently said that Taiwan does not face a talent shortage, but rather a shortage of opportunities for Taiwanese to pursue and realize their dreams.
While salary is a crucial factor for retaining talent, it is more important to create an environment which facilitates the realization of personal ambition. There is no doubt that Taiwan has a glut of talented people. What they need is an environment in which they can develop to their full potential. Society should pay due respect to their hard work and companies should reward them appropriately.