Earlier this month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today’s young might become a “lost generation” because of the high youth unemployment rates across the world. In Taiwan, the jobless rate for young people aged 20 to 24 is 12.3 percent, and the average wage has remained stagnant for more than a decade. Aside from economic structural problems, unemployment is also a product of a number of unjust laws depriving young people of resources and a chance for career development.
First, in terms of resources, the 18 percent preferential interest rate for retired military personnel, civil servants and public school teachers is placing an enormous financial burden on the government, crowding out resources for the younger generation. Recent media reports show that, just as this group of people enjoy a year-end bonus of one-and-a-half month’s salary, retirees also enjoy a “year-end allowance” of one-and-a-half month’s salary, without a legal basis. Together, this “allowance” gave an estimated 420,000 retirees more than NT$19.2 billion (US$641 million) last year, almost twice the amount the government estimates it would receive from the controversial capital gains tax on securities.
Statistics show that the average retirement age for military personnel is 43 — much lower than the average for public school teachers at 53 or civil servants at 55. As a result, for the first time ever, income from the government’s retirement pension fund for military personnel last year could not cover its expenditure, which exceeded income by 7 percent. At the rate soldiers are retiring, it will destroy the retirement pension fund for all government employees.
Second, many laws hurt career development opportunities for the young, eg, by restricting their rights to take civil service examinations. While the number of government agencies has shrunk in the name of reform, in reality, many of them have reappeared as partially or fully government-funded associations or foundations, making it difficult for the Examination Yuan to monitor personnel affairs.
The privatization of state-run business has also created many manufacturing units, financial holding firms and subsidiaries that are in fact still government-run. Although staff appointments to these companies are still controlled by the Cabinet and ministries, appointments are not made based on competitive examinations as stated in Article 85 of the Constitution. As a consequence, young people are deprived of career opportunities as they are overlooked by bureaucrats employing close friends and promoting one another within this closed system.
Moreover, because the government tolerates violations of the Act on Recusal of Public Servants Due to Conflicts of Interest (公職人員利益衝突迴避法) — allowing lawmakers or councilors to hire wives, children or relatives as assistants even if they lack the required expertise — young graduates with degrees in law, politics, finance and economics find no jobs, which hurts the operation of the legislature.
The Ministry of Education also allows retired professors and officials to work for private universities, thus enjoying both a pension and a full salary. Meanwhile, many young holders of doctorates from Taiwan and abroad have a hard time finding full-time employment in universities, forcing them to become part-time teachers.