Tue, Mar 03, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Number of people on jobless benefits hits new high

By Shelley Huang and Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTERS, WITH CNA and AFP

The Council of Labor Affairs yesterday said a record number of people received unemployment benefits last month, with payouts reaching NT$2 billion (US$59 million).

The council approved 116,633 applicants for unemployment subsidies last month.

The number of people on welfare and the total amount of unemployment subsidies are at their highest levels since the government launched the benefits in 1999, Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said.

The demand for jobless claims started to spike in the fourth quarter of last year and the trend continued into this year,” a Bureau of Labour Insurance spokeswoman said.

The number of new claimants who have lost their jobs has exceeded 30,000 per month since last December, while the country’s jobless rate soared to a 31-year high of 5.31 percent in January, the council said.

Wang said the period of eligibility for unemployment benefits had been extended from six months to nine months for the middle-aged and elderly, as well as for handicapped workers.

When asked whether this would be extended to all those who are involuntarily unemployed, Wang said that the unemployment cycle was 26.1 weeks and the council would monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, Wang said the council had sufficient funds to finance the subsidies as the Unemployment Insurance Fund contains NT$105 billion, with an additional projected annual infusion of NT$20 billion.

In response, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators called for the government to extend unemployment subsidies to one year.

“President Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] promised an amendment to the Employment Insurance Act [就業保險法] during his campaign to extend unemployment subsidies from six months to one year and he should not break that promise,” DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-ching (葉宜津) told a press conference yesterday.

DPP Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如) said the proposed extension from six months to nine months was unsatisfactory.

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