Wed, Feb 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet mulls study vouchers

BACK TO SCHOOL One college dean objected to the plan, saying that if college graduates couldn’t find jobs after four years, one more year wasn’t going to help

By Flora Wang and Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Executive Yuan could provide “educational vouchers” to college graduates who have difficulty finding jobs, a Cabinet official said yesterday.

“Educational vouchers will work like stipends for those who would like to pursue further training,” Cabinet Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said after a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning, adding that similar schemes have been implemented in other countries.

Su said the plan was intended to help young talents — especially recent college graduates — receive more training that meets the needs of the nation’s industries.

“The government is eyeing the future,” he said.

Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) Chairman Chen Tain-jy (陳添枝) had said on Monday that the Executive Yuan would spend NT$30 billion (US$890 million) of its maximum NT$500 billion special budget request to cover the training subsidy.

Statistics from the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics show college-educated people constitute about 40 percent of the nation’s unemployed — or 220,000 out of 549,000 people.

CEPD officials said the plan would seek to cut the number of unemployed people by 100,000 this year by encouraging them to return to campus and take courses on government funding.

The unemployment rate hit a six-year high of 5.03 percent in December and is expected to climb higher, government statistics show.

CEPD Secretary-General York Liao (廖耀宗) said yesterday that the plan would set a ceiling of NT$10,000 for one year for college graduates who have been unemployed for a minimum of three months after being laid off.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) would be responsible for designing the courses, which would likely include information, language, management, innovation and other classes, he said.

Liao said the plan was still under study and that details would be announced after the Cabinet gives its approval next week.

While lauding the Cabinet for coming up with plans to lower unemployment among university graduates, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators also expressed concern over whether the plan would be as effective as the government believes.

“[The scheme] is unlikely to be effective,” KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said yesterday. “People would prefer to have a job and make a living instead of going back to school with the stipend.”

Saying that numerous high school and vocational school students had also been unable to find jobs, KMT Legislator Chiang Yi-hsiung (江義雄), head of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee, said the Cabinet’s plan was “a hasty policy and is unlikely to be effective.”

KMT Legislator Alex Fai (費鴻泰) said that although the policy was well-meaning, the government’s approach was not appropriate.

“[The government] should try to offer [college graduates] more research-related job opportunities or other kinds of jobs, not educational vouchers,” he said.

Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), director of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Department of Youth Development, called the education voucher plan “an empty bullet,” adding that it could help the government lower unemployment rates temporarily, but that it wouldn’t help young people land jobs.

DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) panned the plan as a waste of national resources, saying the money could be better spent on helping low-income and families with low education levels, rather than spending it on young people who do not need to go back to schools.

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