For many years, I have called on the government to review the “double-pay system,” under which some retired military personnel, civil servants and public school teachers now teaching at private schools receive both state retirement pensions and regular salaries at the same time. I am glad to see that the government is now squarely facing up to the double-pay problem, as the Ministry of Education is planning to push for an amendment to the Statute Governing the Retirement of School Faculty and Staff (學校教職員退休條例).
Two years ago, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Hsiao Ching-tien (蕭景田) pointed out that a total of 1,351 retired civil servants were teaching at private universities while receiving state retirement pensions. It was estimated that their combined annual salaries and benefits were NT$1.8 billion (US$61.5 million), which was around 10 percent of the Ministry of Education’s annual subsidies for private universities.
According to Hsiao, the Control Yuan had issued a “correction” to the Cabinet regarding retired civil servants receiving double pay by taking up jobs at state-run companies after their retirement from the civil service. As a consequence, the Legislative Yuan immediately amended the Public Functionaries Retirement Act (公務人員退休法) to regulate the practice. However, the amendment failed to include regulations preventing retired civil servants from retaining their retirement benefits while receiving salaries from private schools. As a result the problem is now commonly seen at private universities.
I often urge legislators to promptly address the problem when I talk with them. Since I could also work and receive double pay, friends have asked me if I wouldn’t think it a pity if the law were amended, since that would remove the opportunity. My simple answer is that not only would I not think it a pity, I would support such an amendment without reservation, because I would feel uncomfortable being criticized for disregarding social fairness and justice by receiving a double income.
Today, the average monthly salary of a university professor is NT$100,000, while many university graduates only earn NT$22,000 per month when they first enter the workplace. As this gap continues to widen, it is only natural that such a system attracts a lot of criticism.
In addition, the ethos behind a retirement pension program is to support the elderly so that they can continue to enjoy life in retirement without additional income. From this perspective, if someone who receives a state retirement pension also has a new job where they earn more money, then they should no longer receive the retirement pension.
Some professors who receive double pay have said to me that since their current salaries are not too bad, they would accept the decision if the legislature amended the law and demanded that they choose just one of their two income streams. Personally, I have the same stance.
The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has promoted social fairness and justice, and it is now making an effort to narrow the income gap. I am pleased to see the education ministry’s push for an amendment of the law for the sake of social fairness and justice. At the same time, using the funds thus saved from eliminating the double-pay system to employ more people to boost the employment rate or provide subsidies for low-income households would be worthy actions.
Chuang Chi-ming is a professor in the Department of Educational Management at National Taipei University of Education.
Translated by Eddy Chang