Summer break is here, and many graduates, among other people, have entered the ranks of the employed, but there are also many young people who are still looking for a job.
According to Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) data for last year, there were 112,000 unemployed Taiwanese between the ages of 16 and 24, which translates to a jobless rate of 12.12 percent.
Unemployment among people with a university degree or higher was 14.79 percent, while about 194,000 young people were in atypical employment.
An analysis of the reasons for the difficulty in finding a job shows that 54.46 percent of younger Taiwanese are unemployed because there are no job opportunities, while about 25 percent could not find the kind of job they wanted and about 25 percent could not find a job that met their salary expectations.
The percentage of young people who had difficulty finding employment because they lacked the required expertise and skills increased by 10 percentage points in the four years between 2012 and last year, from 30 percent to 40 percent. This is evidence that the difficulties young people face when looking for a job have increased.
Reports like this substantiate UN concerns over youth employment and the difficulties young people face in finding work because they lack suitable training and skills.
To draw attention to the importance and urgency of educating and training young people, the UN in 2014 designated July 15 as World Youth Skills Day. The reason for the urgency is that the number of people not in employment, education or training is rising around the world due to high levels of youth unemployment.
In addition, the ranks of the working poor and young people in atypical employment are growing, while the opportunities for young people to have decent employment are decreasing.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that there is nothing as frightening as long-term unemployment upon graduation and a lack of hope for the future, and that frustration over unemployment turning into anger has become one of the biggest threats to global peace and security.
This is why he is calling on governments around the world to focus on improving youth employment.
Is the Taiwanese government heeding Guterres’ call?
In response to World Youth Skills Day, the Ministry of Labor has arranged an international skills competition to demonstrate the importance the government places on, and its efforts to promote, expertise and skills by providing contestants with an opportunity to explore different professions and connect businesses with jobseekers.
However, as such competitions have become a focal point for schools’ and the government’s development of skills training, the question is whether the government and educational institutions are offering students appropriate follow-up training and employment channels and opportunities.
Furthermore, although the government between 2014 and last year spent NT$14 billion (US$4.6 billion) on a plan to improve youth employment in response to the rising number of unemployed young people, the DGBAS report shows that the difficulties faced by jobseekers between the ages of 16 and 24 have not been alleviated.
This implies that young people cannot find decent employment even if they have the required skills.
The problem is that policymakers are not proposing proactive labor policies and measures aimed at young people, and they are not addressing structural problems, such as poverty among working people and inferior labor conditions.
The International Labour Organization has launched the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. “Decent jobs” means having ample opportunity to enter a job with reasonable labor conditions and a safe work environment, and not be exploited or discriminated against or be in physical or mental danger, while at the same time having access to sufficient social security networks to be able to ride out temporary employment difficulties.
Considering this definition, the government’s response to World Youth Skills Day has been overly passive and overly focused on competitions that will not do much to create decent jobs for young people.
The Cabinet should set up a permanent cross-ministerial platform for youth labor policies and allot a budget to enable the implementation of a national youth employment plan that guarantees basic wages and labor conditions, job training, specialized employment counselors and community-based youth employment counseling offices.
The government should also pass a minimum wage act to prevent young people from becoming working poor who are dependent on social welfare due to low wages focus on promoting decent work for young people.
Yeh Ta-hua is secretary-general of the Taiwan Alliance for the Advancement of Youth Rights and Welfare.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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