Sun, Mar 07, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Angry protesters ask help to get jobs

ECONOMY A group of unemployed people staged a demonstration in front of the Presidential Office yesterday in an attempt to draw attention to their plight

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Nearly 500 angry, unemployed laborers, fishermen, college graduates and farmers yesterday appealed to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), as well as the opposition camp, to do something about the sluggish economy.

"We want jobs ... we want jobs," the crowd yelled in front of the Presidential Office yesterday afternoon.

"I have been unemployed for 19 months," said Chen Chin-yi (陳進義), chairman of the Jobless Workers' Association.

"There are another 80,000 jobless workers like me in Kaohsiung City, my hometown. We want nothing more than a job for each person to support ourselves and our families. It is so pathetic, isn't it?" Chen Chin-yi said.

The people who attended yesterday's protest came from all over Taiwan.

They said that they decided to stage the activity two weeks before the presidential election because they hoped that this would improve their chances of being taken seriously by the two political camps.

"We are fed-up to the teeth with the political lies of the past four years. The politicians keep promising us that they will do something and that things will get better, but their promises never came true," said Chan Chao-li (詹朝立), a poet and farmer, who was the convener of yesterday's rally. "While they are campaigning for the presidency, we will be more than happy to hear what these candidates can do for us."

Chan said that since Taiwan became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2002, the average income of farmers dropped by 30 percent, and that of fishermen by 50 percent.

In spite of this, the government kept importing products such as rice and fish, he said.

"It only made the situation go from bad to worse. We are not complaining about what the government did, we are complaining that government officials did not do anything to help us or provide a solution," Chan said.

In the meantime, he said, another 137 farm products will be imported to Taiwan next year and the impact on local farm products will definitely become more serious if no improvements or changes are made.

It is their hope that the next president, whoever he will be, will be able to do something to help the unemployed, Chan said.

Su Shan-hsuan (蘇珊玄), a college graduate who is now preparing for graduate school entrance exams, said that the majority of college graduates are unable to find a job in the first year following their graduation.

"It is not that we do not want to work. The fact is that employers do not want to hire entry-level employees. We are just asking for a start. I decided to continue my education because I could not find any chance to start my career," Su said.

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