The government is deliberating whether to extend the period people can receive unemployment subsidies from six months to nine months, Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said yesterday.
“We do not rule out extending the period of unemployment subsidy to nine months, but we are still in discussions,” Wang told reporters during a press conference at the Government Information Office.
Wang said the council had proposed an amendment to the Employment Insurance Act (就業保險法) to first grant the subsidy extension to unemployed senior citizens or those who are physically or psychologically challenged, adding that she hoped the bill would clear the legislative floor in the spring legislative session.
Currently, anyone who is laid off can enjoy an unemployment subsidy for up to six months. The amount of the subsidy is about 60 percent of the person’s average insured salary six months prior to his or her loss of employment.
Wang said the council would also grant loans totaling as much as NT$1 million (US$29,000) to people starting up small businesses and to women aged between 20 and 65 who would like to start their own businesses.
Wang said the government’s goal was to keep the unemployment rate this year at or less than 4.5 percent, adding that the Council for Economic Planning and Development had previously said that the unemployment rate could rise to 6 percent if the government did not take measures to address the problem.
Wang said the government’s project to create jobs and prevent unemployment had helped at least 12,391 people as of last Tuesday.
In related news, the economic downturn has resulted in a significant increase in demand for psychiatric counseling in recent months, a major psychiatric hospital in Taipei said yesterday.
Over the past six months, the Songde Branch of Taipei City Hospital has seen a 10 percent increase in the number of visitors seeking outpatient psychiatric services because of financial or work pressure, psychiatrist Liu Tzung-hsien (劉宗憲) said.
Among these cases was one man who decided to conceal the news of his dismissal from his family and continued to go out every day, pretending he was still going to work. The man developed serious depression after the situation persisted for two months, Liu said.
Another patient complained about insomnia because of constant worry about being laid off. While at work, insomniacs cannot concentrate and feel like taking a leave of absence whenever an important assignment comes up, Liu said.
Liu said that most jobless workers are desperate to find new employment and tend to ignore their mental health problems, and he urged the unemployed to ask for help or discuss their problems with their family or friends.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA