Shrinking year-end bonuses have prompted many workers in the country to substitute cash with consumer vouchers in the red envelopes (紅包) they plan to give out this Lunar New Year holiday, a recent online poll showed.
In Taiwan, it is customary for working adults to give cash to their relatives in the form of red envelopes when the Lunar New Year rolls around.
While most Taiwanese employees use part of their year-end bonuses to pay for the red envelopes they plan to give out, this year’s shrinking bonuses have led to shrinking budgets for red envelopes.
An online poll conducted from Dec. 30 to Friday by 1111 Job Bank showed that of the more than 1,000 employees who took the survey, about half of them planned to cut their red envelope budgets.
The average amount of money they were planning to give out was NT$12,192, about 20 percent lower than last year. More than 60 percent of workers planned to give “small red envelopes” containing less than NT$10,000.
Of those who said they planned to give smaller red envelopes, the reason that they gave for the cutbacks were “no year-end bonuses or shrinking bonuses” (40 percent), “pay cut or taking unpaid leave” (15 percent) and “unemployed and seeking job offers” (14 percent).
“Because of the economic downturn, red envelopes have become very much needed by those who have been fired or laid off,” said Ryan Wu (吳睿穎), chief operating officer at 1111 Job Bank. “It’s unavoidable that people with decreased income would want to cut their expenses by giving smaller red envelopes.”
As for the consumer vouchers which began distribution yesterday, about 25 percent of workers said they would use some or all of the vouchers in the red envelopes they are giving out. Forty-one percent also admitted they planned to avoid occasions where they were obligated to give red envelopes, such as visiting their hometowns or relatives.
In related news, while the nation’s unemployment rate has risen to record levels in the past few months, Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) was quoted by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) as saying that she predicts the unemployment problem would worsen after the Lunar New Year and that conditions would not improve until the second half of next year.