Job environment must be improved - Taipei Times
Thu, Jun 14, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Job environment must be improved

By Steven Lin 林祖嘉

Reports about Taiwanese applying to study at Chinese universities have become so common that the government has started questioning the principals of prestigious high schools, and the issue has received much public attention.

Several weeks ago, my department invited a Taiwanese professor teaching at Shanghai’s Fudan University to give an academic speech.

At a luncheon after the speech, he said that about 600 Taiwanese applied to his university this year, and that the standard for admission was Level 72 of Taiwan’s General Scholastic Ability Test. This is the same level for admission as National Taiwan University’s economics departtments.

Many people are probably asking why so many Taiwanese students want to study in China. Part of the answer can be found in a couple of opinion polls.

First, a poll conducted by the Chinese-language United Daily News in November last year indicated that the percentage of the Taiwanese willing to work in China is growing. The figure rose to 40 percent last year, from 25 percent in 2014. Among the respondents, 53 percent of people 18 to 29 years old were willing to work in China.

Next, a poll by Global Views Monthly earlier this year indicated that the percentage of people willing to work in China had surged to 82.5 percent, and the percentage was 89.8 percent among respondents younger than 30.

Third, the United Daily News poll showed that the proportion of respondents willing to send their children to school in China increased from 32 percent in 2016 to 38 percent last year.

Anyone with an understanding of education in Taiwan and China should know that although Chinese universities have risen in global rankings over the past few years, the average quality of instructors at Taiwanese universities is far higher than those at Chinese universities.

This raises the question of why so many Taiwanese and their parents believe that studying in China is a better choice than studying at home. The main reason, of course, has to do with job opportunities and development.

For many years, young Taiwanese have encountered two major difficulties in the job market.

First, wages have remained stagnant. Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) data show that the average annual wage growth from 2000 to this year has been 1.5 percent, while the consumer price index has grown by an average of 1 percent annually.

So, average real wages increased by about 10 percent over the past two decades. The long-term wage stagnation means that the gap between average wage levels in Taiwan and other nations has been widening.

Second, youth unemployment is much higher than the average unemployment rate. Taiwan has tried to maintain the average unemployment rate between 3 and 5 percent since 2000, but unemployment in the 20-to-24 age range is much higher at 11 to 13 percent.

On the one hand, the high jobless rate among young people is related to their tendency to change jobs more often. On the other hand, an important reason is that their salaries often are low due to a lack of work experience.

DGBAS data show that the jobless rate among people 25 to 29 years old is also higher than the national average.

As salaries have remained stagnant for a long time and high-paying jobs are hard to find, the number of Taiwanese working overseas has been continuously increasing.

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