Taiwan should worry about its competitiveness. Seriously. In addition to an inactive government, unambitious young people are adding to the considerable pressure on struggling industries to transform themselves into providers of value-added products to survive.
It is insane and obviously unacceptable that some local enterprises pay just NT$22,000 (US$736) a month for employees with college degrees for any position. How about a pay raise to NT$80,000 a month plus substantial benefits? Such a monthly salary should look inviting to at least some jobseekers, considering that the nation’s regular payroll averaged only NT$37,950 in March, according to the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics.
However, National University of Singapore professor Duan Jin-chuan (段錦泉) found that this was not so. To his surprise, the offer drew a lukewarm response, with less than 40 students from local colleges or universities showing interest, the Commercial Times reported yesterday.
Duan, who is also an academic at Academia Sinica, plans to recruit an unspecified number of local people in the technology area to work in Singapore.
To Duan’s shock, 2,000 people with a master’s degree or doctorate applied for an entry-level job from state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) to work on electricity pillars. That is 50 times more than the 40 students who applied for the high-level positions offered by Duan. In addition, another 12,000 college graduates wrote the test for the blue-collar job, which will pay NT$23,000 a month during the first year.
Why is that? Duan said it is probably because young Taiwanese have unexceptionally high hopes for jobs, while they are unwilling to commit themselves to the job. In other words, most young people in Taiwan only want to live a stable life, with no ambition to be highly successful or to make a better living. They seem to be satisfied with a “little happiness.”
Duan’s observation may truly reflect what is happening in Taiwan. The problem is not only an inactive government and shabby college education system, but also an unenthusiastic young work force.
Hon Hai Group chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) said his company is aiming to recruit 15,000 employees in Taiwan this year at a starting salary of NT$36,000 a month. However, finding talent is tough for Hon Hai, which assembles Apple Inc’s iPhones and iPads, and Tesla Motor Inc’s electric vehicles.
Hon Hai is considering investing in a professional school to create its own talent pool, Gou said.
Innolux Corp, the nation’s largest flat-panel maker, has also said being short-staffed has been a long-term problem.
Responding to the government’s call to return their overseas investments to Taiwan, some manufacturers are pondering bringing less labor-intensive production lines back home from China, or building new factories to produce high-value products as labor costs in China rise.
Quanta Computer Inc, the world’s largest contract laptop maker, said labor costs in China would climb to the same level as Taiwan within just a year and it is considering making high-end products in Taiwan. However, most firms are hesitant to do so because of a limited availability of talent and land.
Over the past three years, Taiwanese companies with overseas operations invested only NT$15.95 billion in Taiwan, falling short of an estimate of NT$131.35 billion based on letters of intent signed between local businesses and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, according to the ministry’s figures.
To speed up investment growth in Taiwan, the government should come up with new and innovative measures, including adjusting tax incentives as US President Barack Obama’s administration is doing, and fixing the country’s education system.
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