College graduates finally saw a bigger rebound in starting salaries last year, after paychecks remained mostly unchanged for more than a decade.
According to a preliminary survey released by the Ministry of Labor last week, local college graduates’ salaries inched up 0.88 percent to average NT$27,152 (US$886.16) a month last year, compared with NT$26,915 in 2013. The annual growth rate was only 0.72 percent in 2013.
Last year’s figure was the highest since 2000, when a brief recovery saw college graduates’ wages average NT$28,016 a month.
Last week’s survey is an encouraging sign — despite the snail’s pace of the recovery — as it indicates an uptrend in wages for first-time jobseekers with a bachelor’s degree. It remains to be seen whether wage increases will continue, because the hikes are concentrated among graduates with specialized training.
A closer look at the ministry’s statistics shows that last year’s wage hike was primarily supported by an average salary of NT$27,525 for students from science, engineering and technology institutes, while students from other institutes received pay packets 2.77 percent thinner, averaging NT$26,763.
No historical records were available for further comparison because the ministry only began providing detailed payroll information divided into different categories — such as by institute or by region — from this year.
It is interesting that the rise in wages for technology graduates echoed recent hikes in employee salary and benefits packages by the nation’s major electronics companies.
Local chip designers spearheaded their electronics firm peers in raising wages because they consider talent a core asset to fend off intensifying competition from rivals, especially Chinese companies.
Chinese chipmakers are competing for talent as they play catch-up in producing high-quality chips in-house to reduce reliance on imports.
As wages in China rise and begin to reach the same level as, or even surpass, those paid to local workers, Taiwanese employers have to raise payrolls to prevent losing talent to their Chinese competitors, which find it easier and cheaper to hire staff from Taiwanese firms to advance their technological capabilities than to develop them on their own.
MediaTek Inc, the nation’s biggest mobile phone chipmaker, has raised employee payroll outlays by almost 35 percent in the first three months of this year to NT$8.35 billion — compared with a NT$6.19 billion rise during the same period last year — to court skilled workers and retain talent. The chipmaker plans to add 2,000 engineers this year.
Novatek Microelectronics Co, a bellwether Taiwanese display driver IC company, also significantly boosted employee payments to total NT$1.12 billion last quarter from NT$883 million a year earlier. Smaller chip designers are following suit by raising their salary packages to compete for talent.
In addition to pay hikes, local chip designers are offering restricted shares for employees. Both approaches will drive up corporate spending and squeeze profits, but there is no other effective way for them to retain talent.
However, students from non-technology backgrounds do not share in those rising benefits. Employees in sectors other than technology usually receive lower salaries on average, while entry-level jobs in the service sector pay even less.
So it remains to be seen whether the uptrend will hold up for the year and herald a real and substantial recovery in the nation’s long-term weakness in wages.
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