There is a serious imbalance in the graduate jobs market in Taiwan. Many highly qualified graduates are finding there are not enough jobs to go around, while there is a shortage of graduates available for research and development (R&D) positions in local industries, a problem exacerbated by too little investment in those industries. The nation needs to find a win-win solution.
Take the biotechnology talent surplus, for example. The government has proposed a three-year employment plan providing a subsidised one-year training program to 100 unemployed biotech PhDs. However, such short-term subsidies only extend the time graduates are out of work and are not a good solution. The problem should be approached from the demand side in two ways through policy changes.
First, there should be compliance between doctoral programs and the actual needs of industry. There should be fewer programs whose graduates are not in high demand, and more engineering and business management programs. The government should not put top researchers with doctoral degrees in the proposed training programs, nor should it push them to publish articles in journals listed in the Science Citation Index and the Social Sciences Citation Index, as this takes time away from other activities. There should be cooperation between R&D departments in industry and academia so that Taiwan can compete internationally.
In other countries, many leading corporations are engaged with the international academic community and their researchers are frequently published in top journals. Researchers at IBM, AT&T and at leading Japanese companies have even won Nobel prizes in this way
Therefore, the government’s policy should aim to lift local companies’ R&D ability to international standards, so such skills can be developed. While it is true that some local companies are producing international-standard research, they are still locked in the mentality of small or medium-sized businesses in terms of their R&D. The government should be making it easier for these companies to improve their R&D capabilities through favorable policy changes.
Second, the government should be encouraging companies to invest in advanced R&D, instead of buying technology and processes from overseas companies, as is the norm in the biotech sector. This enables these companies to be listed on the stock market and profit from buying and selling shares. What it does not do is promote development and progress in Taiwan’s biotech industry.
If the government stipulated certain conditions, like requiring a given percentage — say, 50 percent — of R&D staff to have PhDs, world-class patents, or papers published in specialist periodicals, it would help the cultivation and employment of highly educated individuals, and also improve companies’ R&D standards.
Moreover, many Taiwanese companies are using their R&D investments to get tax deductions or exemptions, or to support their applications for the government’s R&D subsidies. The government could require them to employ a certain number of doctoral graduates when they have exceeded a certain amount in tax deductions, exemptions or subsidies. This could improve the quality of domestic companies’ R&D and therefore the industry as a whole. By doing so, a win-win situation could be created and the government would no longer have to provide subsidies for doctoral graduates.
Liang Ting-peng is a national chair professor in the Department of Management Information Systems at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Eddy Chang