Mon, Mar 18, 2002 - Page 2 News List

`Reality bites' for city's Aborigines

INEQUALITY Far from home and often economically sidelined, a new report finds that urban-dwelling Aborigines face greater hardships when it comes to finding a job

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Rukai Aborigines enact a traditional marriage rite in front of the Presidential Office. A Taipei City Council of Aboriginal Affairs report has found that Aborigines who live in the city encounter many difficulties finding jobs.


Despite yearning to go back to her tribe, for Tsai Yu-lan (蔡玉蘭), a Yami Aborigine, the need to earn her daily bread keeps her trapped in the city.

"Reality bites," said Tsai, who has spent the last 19 years in Taipei.

"In order to earn a living I have no choice but to go on staying in the city because of its job opportunities, which are so often lacking in my tribe."

Another city migrant stays for the same reason.

"Though I often visit my home tribe back in Orchid Island, I stay in the city because of the job I have here," said Simara Os, secretary of the Aboriginal Tribal Party (多族群聚會所) and a member of the Thao tribe.

Tsai and Os' experiences are not unique. Many Aborigines trade their homes for the nation's cities in search of employment.

Chairman of the Council of Aboriginal Affairs of the Taipei City Government Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉) said that as of last June there were some 9,000 Aborigines living in Taipei, and increase of 2,400 people from three years ago.

Tsai and Os, however, are among a lucky few who have steady jobs in Taipei City.

According to the first annual report released by the Council of Aboriginal Affairs of Taipei City this month, urban Aborigines' unemployment rate reached a record high of 11 percent in Taipei last August.

"The figure is nearly double that of the [non-Aboriginal] public," said Chang Shih-cheng (章世政), a staffer at the council in charge of job consulting for Aborigines.

"It is almost redundant to state the obvious fact that unemployment is a serious problem among urban Aborigines," Chang said.

Tsai Shu-yi (蔡淑儀), head of the council's economic development, explained the factors behind the high unemployment rate.

"Due to the sagging economic environment we have encountered in recent years, there are fewer construction projects and therefore a decrease in the need for construction workers, which is a job many urban Aborigines hold."

"In addition to that, due to their often disadvantaged economic situations, coupled with the massive importation of foreign workers in recent years from mostly southeast Asian countries, urban Aborigines have become increasingly subject to unfair employment opportunities," she said.

Tsai Shu-yi said that the council has recently developed a job training program to redress the problem.

Unlike previous training programs, she said the new program is done in conjunction with several private companies, "such as beauty salons, restaurants, mass media organizations and trade corporations.

"After the trainees complete their training they are automatically granted a spot in these companies according to their interests and specialties."

Because of their disadvantaged educational background, many of the city's Aborigines are engaged in low-level positions, such as security guards, temporary workers and janitors.

"To increase their job opportunities and assist them in keeping up with the pace of mainstream society in today's information era, we hope to enhance job opportunities for the city's urban aboriginal job-seekers by equipping them with up-to-date skills," Tsai Shu-yi said.

Skills in areas such as business management, international marketing, professional knowledge in marketing and design, "are all essential to giving urban Aborigines a competitive edge in today's market economy," she said.

Aside from the unemployment issue, the report also reveals that overall, urban Aborigines' standards of living still lag behind those of other Taiwanese.

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