Although many economists and research institutions have issued warnings over potential fallout from the eurozone debt crisis and its impact on Taiwan’s economic outlook during the first quarter of this year, Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said domestic economic prospects might be looking up.
In an interview with the -Chinese-language United Evening News on Saturday, Wang said that some foreign orders had been switched from China to Taiwan, because wages in China are rising and labor shortages are becoming more serious.
She said that unemployment could fall below 4 percent this year, even though the Council for Economic Planning and Development has projected a jobless rate of 4.2 percent.
Wang said she had met with academics and industry executives to get a better understanding of the domestic economic situation.
“Through such talks, I have been made aware that our first quarter economic performance might be better than expected thanks to the ‘switching orders’ effect,” Wang said, referring to export orders that have been transferred to Taiwan from China.
On the manufacturing sector’s call for the delinking of migrant workers’ salaries from minimum wage regulations, Wang reaffirmed her opposition to such a move.
“Although quite a few local companies have singled out delinking migrant workers’ wages from our mandated minimum wage as a condition for them to undertake new investment projects at home or transfer their China production lines back to Taiwan, the council will not agree to such a request,” Wang said.
For one thing, such a move would draw protests from international human rights groups and migrant workers associations, she said.
In addition, Taiwan will not always be able to rely on cheap labor and should therefore focus on industrial upgrading, Wang said.
The council announced after the Lunar New Year holiday that the minimum hourly wage would be raised to NT$115, representing an increase of more than 11 percent from the current level.
The new minimum hourly wage would take effect next year, Wang said.
As to whether the monthly minimum wage would be adjusted this year, Wang said that barring unexpected developments, the council was focusing on the range of the adjustment, hinting that the minimum monthly wage could be adjusted upward.
The minimum monthly wage was increased 5.03 percent to NT$18,780 in July last year.
The new hourly and monthly wage hike plans are part of the government’s efforts to ensure that local wage earners enjoy more of the fruits of domestic economic growth, Wang said.