Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: A hint of optimism for labor

There have been several recent signs that the nation’s economy is picking up. One of the most encouraging messages is a survey that found new graduates are likely to have a greater chance of landing a job this year, with local enterprises saying they are more willing to hire new graduates as well as pay more as demand increases.

Increased hiring could provide support to the improving unemployment rate after the figure fell to 4.02 percent last month, marking the lowest July level in the past 14 years, according to figures released by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) last week.

In a survey conducted last month and released yesterday by global job market consultancy Manpower Group, about 75 percent of 1,000 local employers said they intended to hire first-time jobseekers, with the insurance, property and manufacturing sectors taking the lead. That reflected the nation’s record-high industrial and manufacturing production last month.

Another positive sign is the growing likelihood that new graduates will be able to escape the fate of earning less than NT$22,000 per month, as more than 54 percent of the survey respondents said they conditionally plan to offer monthly wages between NT$25,000 and NT$30,000 for new graduates.

However, not all new graduates face a shorter job-hunting period or the likelihood of better pay. Only those with better qualifications and preparations will be able to take advantage of the opportunity. The survey found that new graduates with internship experience, professional certificates or better English abilities have a significantly better chance of being hired and receiving higher starting salaries than their peers, because 62 percent of employers tend to pay more for job hunters with professional skills.

Although it is premature to say if better pay for first-time jobseekers will have an impact on the long stagnation of average salaries, it is a good start. Hopefully, the ripples will spread outward to the job market as a whole.

The DGBAS’ latest statistics showed that the real average monthly wage, including annual bonuses and compensation, stood at NT$48,622 during the first half of the year, the lowest since 1998. Meanwhile, the nation’s GDP has expanded at an annual rate of between 3 and 4 percent over the past 16 years.

Local enterprises are usually blamed for the salary stagnation, as they tend to retain significant cash and are reluctant to pass their growth or profits on to their employees through payroll hikes. Companies have been relying on endless cost reductions to safeguard their competitiveness, and savings on worker payrolls are usually the first thing that comes to mind. They either freeze salaries or move production lines to countries with lower labor costs.

So an increase in starting salaries should be considered a small, yet important step toward major progress in boosting wages in the long run. It could also help industrial competitiveness as companies come to realize that they will not get enough skilled workers to boost productivity unless they are willing to pay more.

Forty-five percent of Taiwanese firms are still feeling the pinch of a talent drain, the survey showed.

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