Editorial: Graduates must take on challenges

Thu, Sep 26, 2013 - Page 8

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) chairman and chief executive Morris Chang (張忠謀) is expected to make an appearance at a job fair in Taipei this weekend, joining 10 other local electronics companies — including the chipmaker’s local rival, United Microelectronics Corp — to vie for new recruits.

Chang’s move underlines the intense battle for talent in the semiconductor industry, which is highly reliant on skilled engineers and advanced technology to succeed. However, the talent hunt in the technology sector stands in stark contrast to the cooldown in the general job market.

The national unemployment rate hit a 10-month high at 4.33 percent last month, which means that approximately 500,000 people are out of work. The dismal figure makes the local job market the weakest among Taiwan’s Asian peers: Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Japan.

The jobless rate has been hovering above 4 percent after improving from more than 5 percent during the 2008-2009 global financial meltdown. By comparison, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Japan have reduced their unemployment rates to about 3 percent this year.

The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) blamed the high unemployment figure on the influx of first-time job seekers brought on by the graduation season. The statistics agency also attributed the slow recovery of the job market to tepid economic growth.

However, the DGBAS only considers short-term factors, while there is a lot of discussion among experts and government officials about Taiwan’s long-term structural problems.

The stubbornly high jobless rate is a result of the disparity between rapid change in the industrial landscape and snail’s-pace reform in the education system. More than 200,000 college students graduate every year from 162 institutions, which is a stunning number for a small island nation, but only a few of them find that their schooling has prepared them to enter the workforce. The disparity is reflected in the high jobless rate of 5.68 percent among college graduates last month, the highest level in 11 months.

What impact does the mindset of these graduates have on the nation’s job market, economic strength and international competitiveness?

The nation’s young people are not ambitious enough. They are not eager for knowledge or for success and are too easily satisfied with being just a little happy.

A survey released by the Chinese-language magazine Business Today earlier this month may provide a glimpse into the mindset of Taiwan’s young people. The survey found that just 13.6 percent of respondents would be willing to take on a challenge at work that would get them a 20 percent pay raise if they succeed, but fired if they failed.

In comparison, more than 30 percent of Chinese respondents said they would be willing to take a shot at the task.

The survey also found that less than 15 percent of Taiwanese respondents would be willing to take on an overseas position, much lower than the 48 percent of Chinese respondents who said they would accept.

Taiwanese prefer an easier job with a lower salary to better-paid and more challenging work. If young people do not change this mindset, the stagnation of the local job market, and the imbalance between the expectations of employers and the talent available, will drag on for much longer.