Statistics released by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) yesterday showed that the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last month soared to a new six-year high.
The CLA’s latest figures showed that 72,548 people applied for benefits last month but there are concerns that the number of applicants this month will be even higher.
The Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said that the nation’s unemployment rate in December climbed for a sixth straight month to a six-year high of 5.03 percent — or 549,000 workers — as companies sought to cut costs because of the rapidly deteriorating economy.
On more than one occasion Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) has said that she expects the unemployment problem to be even worse after the Lunar New Year holiday because many companies tend to delay firing workers until after the holiday.
Wang began this Lunar New Year by saying; “this year will be more difficult than last year,” and that local employment service centers would see unprecedented numbers of people applying for unemployment benefits, as well as trying to find jobs through government programs.
More than 30,000 of those who applied for unemployment benefits last month were first-time applicants, which reflects the recent trend of mass layoffs of young and well-qualified white-collar workers from high-tech companies, officials said.
Council statistics showed that in recent months unemployment had hit highly educated young workers especially hard. One out of every three unemployed workers was under 30 years old, the council said.
A council official, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed concern that the Employment Insurance Fund, which is used to pay unemployment benefits, would be insufficient to cover the large number of jobless people. Last year, the council paid out NT$6.6 billion (US$200 million) in unemployment benefits.
Considering that the fund’s average yearly income is NT$17 billion, a potential shortfall in funds could pose another major challenge for the council.
On Monday, the first working day after the Lunar New Year holiday, crowds packed employment service centers, with more than 12,000 people filing involuntary unemployment applications in a single day, 30 times the number of people who filed on the corresponding day last year.