An article about a graduate from National Tsing Hua University going to work in Australia as a “migrant Taiwanese laborer” or tailao (台勞) has gained a lot of attention recently. Perng Ming-hwei (彭明輝), a retired professor from National Tsing Hua University, recently spoke out for the younger generation and said that he believed that vast amounts of wealth are controlled by those born in the 1950s and 1960s and that today’s youth can only work as slaves. He also wrote about how the younger generation is often described as being weak and incapable of taking on responsibility for the predicament they find themselves in now.
The latest edition of Bloomberg Businessweek featured an article about the cost of higher education in the US. It said that after 30 years of development, the total amount of student loans given out in the US in 2010 had surpassed the total amount of credit card loans and, as of last year, it was even higher than the total amount of car loans.
One young person mentioned in the article said that each month, she has to pay back up to US$1,400 in student loans, which is more than she makes working in a non-governmental organization, and that she cannot see any future for herself.
Taiwan is the same as the US in that both have a serious problem with people from different generations receiving very different treatment. Those who benefit from the current labor retirement system in the US and Taiwan are either those who are already retired or those who are planning to retire.
Taiwan’s current national health insurance system and the one by which it will be replaced when it is eventually restructured benefits the older generation.
As for land development, the government has put economics before the environment and this is something for which future generations will have to pay the price.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to get votes, the government has done everything possible to set up all types of annual pensions and promises for social welfare for which taxpayers will ultimately have to pick up the tab.
When Taiwanese who were born in the 1950s and 1960s were looking for employment, the economy was just starting to take off. On the other hand, Taiwanese born in the 1970s and 1980s and even those born in the 1990s now face a number of extra challenges caused by globalization, an economic recession, as well as a broader, worldwide Chinese community. They also face much higher housing costs and more pressure to consume than previous generations. The aging population is a ticking time bomb, as in the future, the few will be supporting the many.
The accumulation of knowledge and education are where young people gain competitiveness. However, in order to get Taiwanese universities into the list of top 100 universities in the world and to show that those involved in academic administration are doing something, the nation’s higher-education system places emphasis on the publication of academic papers in all kinds of academic journals, while completely ignoring the need to develop young students’ skills and competitiveness.
A few Taiwanese universities do get heavy annual subsidies from the Ministry of Education and claim they are moving up in the annual rankings of universities worldwide; however, now we have some of these graduates going over to Australia to work as butchers. Are we supposed to believe that this was the original intention of the ministry’s “Five-Year, 50 billion” program that was supposed to improve universities and their international ranking?