Wed, Jan 28, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Youth Labor Union urges government action

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Youth Labor Union wants the government to decommodify workers to minimize the impact of high unemployment rates.

Business closures and downsizings have contributed to soaring unemployment rates in Taiwan.

The Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said last week that the jobless rate last month had hit a six-year high of 5.03 percent, with the number of unemployed reaching 549,000.

“The government’s definition of ‘unemployment’ means that the person is out of a job, ready to start anytime and is in the process of job-hunting or waiting for an offer,” said Liou You-shine (劉侑學), executive member of the Youth Labor Union.

“But many people may have given up on their job search after having tried for a long time and been unable to find a job. These ‘discouraged workers’ are not part of the unemployment statistics,” Liou said.

Combined with the 200,000 people currently on unpaid leave, which the Council of Labor Affairs announced earlier this month, the actual number of unemployed may be even higher, the union said.

Liou said that once the Lunar New Year holiday was over, the number of people thrown out of work by mass layoffs would rise, because it is customary for many local businesses to delay firing employees until the holiday is over.

“Losing one’s job is more than just about money and security,” Liou said. “Not being able to make loan payments on time will damage a person’s credit history. A worker’s self-esteem may also be hurt after losing his or her place in society.”

In order to minimize the impact that unemployment has on society, Liou called for the decommodification of workers, including increasing the amount and length of time for unemployment benefits, as well as an improvement in government schemes providing employment training, so that workers do not have to rely as much on their wages.

“For workers, not having to rely completely on conditions in the labor market would decrease the risks of group protests and improve the turnout rate to help workers become more united. This would help balance out the inequalities between employers and their employees,” he said.

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