A recent survey showed more than half of first-time jobseekers were interested in opportunities in the nation’s service sector. Foundry giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was at seventh — the only technology company to make the top 10 of the most desirable companies for starting a career.
The survey conducted by the Chinese-language Cheers magazine showed listed restaurant chain operator Wowprime Corp as the most desirable company to work for, while electronics giant Hon Hai Precision Industry Co and PC brand Acer Inc both dropped out of the top 10, to 13th and 30th respectively.
The survey can be seen as an indication of the nation’s industrial trends and economic development, as it highlights the economy’s gradual transformation from being dominated by manufacturing to being service-oriented.
However, it is not yet known whether the service sector can be as competitive as the technology and manufacturing sectors. It is also unclear what role the service sector would play in boosting the nation’s growth.
Such concerns come to mind when one hears of recent media reports of a doctoral student at National Chengchi University’s Department of Risk Management and Insurance who has become a street vendor of fried chicken in Taichung, or an assistant professor at De Lin Institute of Technology, who has spent more than two decades studying long-horned beetles, who now sells braised pork rice in Taitung.
Some may wonder why these two people with higher-education backgrounds would choose to pursue totally different careers. How would working in the service sector enhance their levels of job satisfaction? And practically, how much could they earn from their new jobs?
If the pair expect better prospects in the service sector, why now? Are their decisions part of long-term career plans, or merely short-term thinking?
None of us are in a position to comment on the validity of their decisions, as an individual’s decisions are their own business. As an old Chinese saying goes: There are masters in all walks of life.
However, if a pattern of similar decisions is seen in the future, then it may make a difference to the economy, and this would draw public attention to the nation’s educational policy, job prospects for graduates and the long-term blueprint for the development of the nation’s service sector.
As suggested by the survey results, at a time when the technology and manufacturing sectors are losing popularity among young jobseekers, despite these sectors’ relatively high salaries and potential for stock options, the service sector is becoming the main source of economic growth and job creation in Taiwan.
According to government statistics, by the end of last year, the service sector contributed about 70 percent of the nation’s GDP and service-sector workers comprised nearly 60 percent of the total employed.
However, is that enough to build the economy on, given the sector’s relatively low wages, smaller investment in research and development, and the smaller scale of the companies in the sector?
These concerns make one realize that the nation’s service sector is still dominated by traditional firms, such as restaurants and retail stores, while modern services — such as Internet, design, financial and legal companies — still have a long way to go to reach the levels seen in more advanced economies.
With that in mind, one has to ask if Taiwan is ready to further open up its service sector.
Does the government realize there is an urgent need to facilitate the free flow of human capital and foreign know-how, which are necessary to enhance competitiveness, and which have helped grow the technology and manufacturing sectors?
Too many questions need to be answered before we can confidently say that the nation has found new economic lifeblood in the service sector.