Fri, Oct 19, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Taiwanese need to work smarter

By Chang Ruay-shiung 張瑞雄

In a special report to the Presidential Office about the problems facing skilled labor in Taiwan, the Council for Economic Planning and Development proposed four potential solutions.

These were: loosening immigration restrictions to attract skilled foreign workers to Taiwan; allowing Taiwanese technological and vocational institutes to engage in industrial-academic cooperation; allowing overseas universities to open schools in Taiwan; and splitting master’s degrees into two classes to allow students who are seeking to enter the workforce to graduate without having to write a thesis.

These solutions represent a move toward a more open system and this is appropriate when it comes to education. However, they are hardly beneficial when it comes to the issue of skilled workers because Taiwan’s problem regarding these workers is not that it lacks them, but rather that it has too many of them and not enough jobs to give them.

In recent years, many new universities have opened in Taiwan, but there is still a lack of qualified candidates to fill the vacancies offered by these new universities and competition between them is therefore fierce. In addition, the allure of plans by the Ministry of Education — plans such as the “50 billion in five years scheme,” the teaching excellence projects and the model technological university projects — have all seen the quality of university-level education in Taiwan improve sharply, with university, master’s and doctoral graduates now commonplace and the labor market well supplied with highly skilled individuals.

However, the nation’s businesses and industries are still developing slowly and are adopting an overall cost reduction strategy. They are not concerned with research and development nor with innovation. Businesses and industries have also failed to create many new employment opportunities and often only require manual workers. If this were not the case, why would Taiwan keep increasing its number of foreign laborers and why has there been so much talk lately about differentiating wages for local and foreign laborers?

Since Taiwan already lacks enough jobs for its skilled workers, loosening immigration restrictions to attract skilled foreign workers is obviously not the way forward.

With a lack of qualified students to fill local universities, allowing foreign universities to open up schools in Taiwan would only lead to local schools closing down and would also create other problems such as unemployed PhD holders and professors. These overseas schools would, like Taiwan’s schools, also end up producing large numbers of skilled workers who cannot then find jobs to match their skills. What’s more, by allowing master’s students to graduate without having to write a thesis, people with degrees lacking all the skills a master’s degree requires will abound. Companies will not want to employ such graduates and in the end, the nation will be left with even more graduates with high levels of education that serves no practical use, and who cannot find work.

According the social networking Web site LinkedIn, the four most in-demand companies among job seekers are Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. Given this, it can be argued that these companies are constantly innovating and that only with such innovation can more senior skilled positions be created within a company.

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