Mon, Sep 12, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Experts: Strawberry Generation is just a myth, statistics say

BY JENNY CHOU  /  STAFF REPORTER

People born in Taiwan in the 1970s and 1980s are commonly referred to as belonging to the "Strawberry Generation," meaning that they are less able to withstand pressure and that they aren't able to work very hard.

However, Chen Po-chien (陳伯謙), a spokesperson for the Youth Labor Alliance yesterday said that this was a misconception.

According to Chen, the trend that the youth of Taiwan face today is long hours, low pay and job insecurity, amidst massive inflation rates. A survey carried out in Switzerland revealed that the work hours in Taiwan are the longest in the world, averaging 50 hours a week -- beating even Japan's record. Furthermore, Chen said, the minimum monthly pay -- NT$15,840 (US$483) -- hasn't been adjusted in the last eight years.

Chien Hsi-chieh, the convener of the pan-purple alliance, said that the problems are partly owing to the treatment of labor and education as a commodity, which has been reflected in staff cutbacks without any consideration of retirement, and importing foreign laborers to cut down on costs.

"People aren't products; they have rights, dignity, their own opinions," Chien said.

Chien spoke of over-time without pay, the use of part-time staff and the recruitment of new staff to replace senior staff members as a means of saving on costs, saying that "under these conditions it is no wonder that professional workers become easily replaceable."

According to Lin Chia-Ho (林佳和), assistant professor at Chinese Culture University and a member of the pan-purple alliance "the government's attitude" towards this problem was the main issue.

"The government's idea of effectiveness is to slim down staff, which is misconceived and outdated," Lin said.

According to Lin, the government heads the list of organizations who use part-time employees to cut on costs. He compared this to the EU, which in an attempt to set a good example for its citizens makes an effort to increase staff numbers, with a monthly report being issued each month. Lin said that the problem that youth in Taiwan face, however, is of a global nature.

Lin talked about a report which was the result of a conference held in Los Angeles in 1997, which said that by 2025, the world would become a 20:80 society meaning that only 20 percent of the population would play an active role in the flow of the economy; the other 80 percent would be made "redundant."

"The young may not be the first affected, but it is not only a matter of who is first," Lin said.

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