Mon, Nov 26, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: A talent lesson from Singapore

A report released last week by the International Institute for Management Development ranked the quality of Taiwan’s talent pool 27th in the global marketplace, down four notches from last year. Government officials must be feeling the heat after the institute’s June report ranked Taiwan’s digital competitiveness 16th, down four notches, and the May report ranked the nation’s competitiveness 17th out of 63 major economies, down three notches and the lowest since 2009.

Last week’s report, which evaluates the skill of 63 countries in attracting, developing and retaining talent, attributed the drop in Taiwan’s ranking to its failure to stop the brain drain and its inability to attract foreign professionals, although Taiwan ranked fourth in the Asia-Pacific region after Singapore (13th), Hong Kong (18th) and Malaysia (22nd).

The Democratic Progressive Party administration, which has eased immigration requirements and lowered income taxes for foreign professionals, has ample room to improve before standing a chance of topping the institute’s rankings.

Recruiting and cultivating talent is not easy. Predicting the outcome of easing regulations on the recruitment of foreign talent and of increasing investment in education to develop a skilled workforce is difficult, but Taiwan could learn from Singapore, which excels at making the local business environment attractive to skilled talent and at tapping into the global talent pool.

The Singaporean government prioritizes learning, having for years spent about 20 percent of its budget on education. It promotes lifelong learning and invests in vocational training, so that people can meet future career goals. It combines high pay, good housing, low taxes and friendly immigration laws to attract and retain foreign professionals. Singaporean workers boast good foreign-language skills and international experience, while the city-state offers exchange opportunities for industry professionals from other nations.

This talent strategy holds lessons for Taiwan.

Singapore’s all-out effort to diversify industry has turned it into a global financial hub in Asia and earned it a global footing in electronics, biomedical and petrochemical manufacturing, not only generating balanced economic development, but also creating a public relations cycle that attracts additional talent from abroad.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration, in promoting the “five plus two” innovative industries over the past two years, has sought to stimulate the economy. The government has decided to raise the salaries of the public sector by 3 percent and increase the minimum wage by 5 percent, but the brain drain problem persists. Generally, low wages remain a focus of voters and are the main culprit behind Tsai’s poor approval ratings.

Ignoring the competitiveness of Taiwan’s talent pool will see its global ranking continue to slip. The questions of how to encourage companies to offer decent pay and how to create an environment preferred by foreign professionals will continue to put pressure on the government, which needs to take the steps necessary for success.

Saturday’s nine-in-one local elections showed that many people are frustrated with Tsai’s administration on many fronts. They do not feel that policies are helping their daily lives. Policymakers must solve the problem of low wages and implement strategies to cultivate and recruit talent ahead of the presidential and legislative elections two years from now.

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